Select Page

It was my intention to take this ATSB report – HERE – apart; systematically and carefully analysing the entire unholy mess. Then, by about page two, I lost it. The whole thing is such a complex matrix of what is wrong with the entire system, destined to be just another ignored sign post along the merry road to a major incident. The major and minor daemons hibernating in the present system are starting to come to life.

This incident, much like others we have recently seen, typifies the truly dreadful state of aviation in Australia. These pilots are not to blame – they are a product of that system. Victims of the CASA version of what is ‘safe’. Victims of a HR and Check /Train system designed to avoid confronting the ethos and culture of CASA is always right. Victims of a premeditated tick a box – stay legal- method of SOP, arse kissing and going along to get along methodology which, combined with the pony-pooh of criminal charges has removed all command prerogative, decimated common sense and all but eradicated the practical, working airman from the system. Don’t blame ’em; train ’em.

ATSB – Instead of tracking toward Williamtown as anticipated, the controller observed the aircraft manoeuvring at a greater distance than usual from the runway and advised the crew of their position.

Just stop and think about that statement, for a moment. Let’s forget the fancy GPS and pictorial situational display equipment, pretend they have gone AWOL. Even with basic equipment – ADF/VOR/ILS/DME – there are still two sets of non colour-blind, mark 1 eyes on the flight deck. OK, so it’s dim and nearly dark –BUT the DME says the airport is 6 nms, the ADF will be pointing faithfully at the beacon; airport that-a-way (2+2 = 4). QED.

Williamtown does not boast a light beacon (ABN) but a look at the approach chart shows the densely lit area to the south and places the airfield in a ‘dark’ area with TVASIS. In short, it’s hard to miss; hell there is a DME ‘arrival which takes you to the bloody NDB. Even if both trained, route qualified pilots could not ‘see’ the runway and light array well enough to gauge an approach then what was wrong with tracking to the NDB overflying and joining left base. Takes about an extra three minutes, safe as houses, smooth as silk.

ATSB – The crew then requested radar guidance and were directed toward the airport.

Whoa – ADF shows a north track ‘to’ – or bearing south of WLM; DME show six miles – WTF do you ask for a vector???

ATSB -The crew visually identified runway 12 and landed the aircraft about 14 minutes before last light.

After landing the crew advised the controller that they were unfamiliar with locating the airport at night.

It’s Bollocks – You do realise that here we have two pilots, not one junior FO, but two pilots who couldn’t find a cat, in a cat house with a candle. I’ll say this, any pilot ‘learning’ to navigate the old way, pre GPS – would, at least three times during that training be unable to find the airport – I still have difficulty when it’s a ‘first’ time; some are just difficult to ‘sight’; it’s a fact of aeronautical life. The rules are simple – over-fly and make a full circuit; 101 basic airmanship for those unable to resolve the approach path. This crew was learning it’s trade – on the job, without grown up guidance.

The CASA in it’s delighted state, hired one of the greatest proponents of this system in the middle of an investigation into an accident, which he and he alone was, as chief pilot, ultimately responsible for. But don’t worry folks, these guys can all recite the regulations, pass their simulator rides, never piss on the carpet and don’t get into pub brawls. They can’t fly for shit of course; but boy; are they ‘legal’.

Toot-toot…(and a Tick tock, for good measure).