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Dash 8 Down: The Inside Story Of Ansett Flight 703

9 June 1995 – the day Ansett Flight 703 went down on its approach to Palmerston North
Airport – a day forever remembered by the rescuers, survivors and families of those who lost their lives.

What caused Flight 703 to crash?
Was it pilot error?
Mechanical malfunction?
Weather conditions?
What was the role of Air Traffic Control?
Were they aware the aircraft was in danger?
Could they have prevented the crash?
Was the new approach path at Palmerston North airfield safe?

DASH 8 DOWN, written by retired airline pilot, Michael Guerin is a detailed investigation into this tragedy – a tragedy which produced a ‘world first’ in terms of using material from a Cockpit Voice Recorder in a criminal trial – a tragedy which saw airline pilots closing ranks – a tragedy that generated huge media interest often directed against the police during their investigations, a tragedy which left many unanswered questions.

DASH 8 DOWN includes full details of the events leading up the crash, heart-wrenching stories from the first rescuers on the scene and many of the survivors, and looks at the subsequent investigations and trials.

Michael Guerin was at both the Depositions Hearing and the criminal trial of Garry Sotheran. He points out that the most important issue in the criminal trial was that four people died unnecessarily. Yet this fact seemed to be forgotten as the New Zealand public was conditioned to feel sympathy for the pilot and anger at the police. It was not the police who decided there was sufficient evidence for a trial but the New Zealand justice system.

Wider issues of aviation are also looked at, such as the contentious issue of the use of the Cockpit Voice Recorder in the trial, and the fact that following Garry Sotheran’s trial, the use of the CVR was ruled as no longer admissible as evidence in trials of pilot error. It also questions why the Transport Accident Investigation Commission report which cost almost $800,000 excluding legal costs, was not able to be used as evidence in the trial, and outlines the many legal challenges during the six years leading up to Sotheran’s trial.

DASH 8 DOWN provides thorough and accurate research on one of New Zealand’s biggest air disasters, and is sure to generate strong debate on the many issues it raises.

DASH 8 DOWN written by Michael Guerin
Publication: September 2001 NZ Retail: $24.95
Published by Random House New Zealand

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