Saturday, February 11, 2012

Plane crash 'didn't need to happen'. Piper PA34-200T Seneca, ZK-FMW. Accident occurred February 2, 2005 - Mt. Tauhara, New Zealand

Plane crash victims Bernie and Christine Lewis. 

Mark Lewis outside his office in Mile End. 
Picture: Simon Cross

Nigel Hunt
From: Sunday Mail (SA)
February 11, 2012 10:00PM

Seven years after his parents were killed, Mark Lewis is about to reveal his own views on the tragedy.

The son of high-profile Adelaide businessman Bernie Lewis and wife Christine - who died when their charter aircraft slammed into a New Zealand mountain in 2005 - will this week present a lengthy submission to an inquest into the tragedy.

"At the end of the day it was pilot error but there are a whole bunch of aspects, a whole bunch of contributing failures from three parties which led to that accident," Mark Lewis said yesterday.

"Three lives were thrown away for something that really should not have happened," he said.

"I believe it was an entirely avoidable accident".

Mark Lewis, 45, who has successfully expanded the Bernie Lewis Home Loans empire since his father's death, has compiled the report following his own investigation into the crash.

A former RAAF pilot, Mr Lewis said these included issues with the pilot, the airline that owned the plane and NZ's Civil Aviation Authority.

Bernie Lewis, 66, and Christine, 60, were on a holiday when their chartered twin-engine Piper Seneca crashed into Mt Tauhara on NZ's North Island on February 2, 2005. Pilot Steven Brown, 36, also died.

The plane was making an instrument approach to Taupo airport in bad weather and low cloud when it hit the mountain.

Mr Lewis formed the Adelaide Permanent Building Society in 1971 and his trademark Bernie Lewis Home Loans business in 1987. Mark Lewis will travel to NZ with his sister, Vanessa, and Bernie Lewis's brother, Lawrie, for Wednesday's inquest in Rotorua.

It is understood several witnesses will be called including air crash investigators, police and the owners of the charter company, Christian Aviation, who were expected to challenge aspects of the initial NZ Transport Accident Investigation Commission report into the crash.

That report found the pilot had used cannabis before the accident and that, although he had a medical certificate, he suffered a heart condition that had deteriorated to the extent he should have been banned from flying.

It also found the crash probably would have been avoided if a Terrain Awareness and Warning System had been fitted.

Mr Lewis said his submission did not seek to lay blame on any one particular party but identified multiple failures.

"There were failures by the pilot through various aspects of the flight and preparation for the flight, there are failures by the airline in aspects of their supervision and the way they conducted themselves against the civil aviation rules and I think there were failures by the CAA in New Zealand," he said.

He said these included documented complaints by pilots concerning the accuracy of the fixed navigation aid at Taupo that assist pilots in bad weather.

"Even people within CAA were saying, `maybe we need to put some notifications out', and the director of civil aviation didn't," Mr Lewis said.

He said he hoped "some good" would come from the inquest in that aviation safety in NZ would be improved.

"I think New Zealand's aviation system and supervision of that system makes the system inherently unsafe," Mr Lewis said.


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