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Pilot lashes out at air-safety watchdogs’ crash report


THE two government agencies responsible for policing aviation “publicly lied” about the full circumstances of a 2009 Pel-Air crash off Norfolk Island, the plane’s pilot has claimed.

Dominic James, who had his pilot’s licence temporarily suspended following the incident, said the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau had “significantly altered the findings” of an accident report. “Once this misconduct was disclosed, the (agencies) then lied quite publicly about what they knew and defended this unsound report,” Mr James told The Australian.

Two people involved in the crash of the medevac flight, nurse Karen Casey and doctor David Helm, have sued Pel-Air — an arm of Regional Express, or Rex — with the case being heard in the NSW Supreme Court this week.

After the accident it was revealed an ATSB investigation had failed to mention 57 breaches or “serious deficiencies” at Pel-Air which had been identified by CASA. Those revelations sparked a parliamentary inquiry that reported in December, leading the federal government to call on the ATSB to launch a new probe.

An external investigation was also undertaken by the Canadian Transport Bureau, which also found major problems with the existing report.

Questions are being asked over Rex’s government relationships after the small listed company donated almost $400,000 to the federal ALP and LNP between July and November 2012, while the ATSB and CASA investi­gations were ongoing.

Rex has repeatedly declined to comment when asked by The Australian why it made those political donations with shareholder funds.

The company has not made any donations since then and the only other political donations the company had ever made was $3486 to the ALP in the year to June 2004.

There were six people aboard the Pel-Air flight when it ditched into the ocean near Norfolk Island after running out of fuel, but no lives were lost.

Lawyers for Ms Casey, who was seriously injured in the crash, told judge Monika Schmidt she has suffered from severe physical and mental problems following the crash and will never be able to work again. Ms Casey and Dr Helm are seeking damages, while Rex is arguing it has no obligation to make any payments.

The case continues.

5th Estate

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