Sunday, March 31, 2013

Beechcraft G58 Baron, N254F: Accident occurred March 29, 2013 in Kawhia Harbour, New Zealand

On 30 March 2013, a Beechcraft Baron G58 aircraft, registered N254F,with two persons on board, took off from Ardmore Aerodrome, New Zealand on private instrument flight rules (IFR) flight to Timaru, New Zealand. Shortly after the aircraft reached the intended cruise altitude of 18,000 feet (Flight Level 180), the aircraft began descending at a high rate and subsequently collided with the water. Both occupants were fatally injured.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of New Zealand is investigating the accident. On 11 December 2013, investigating officials contacted the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and requested assistance with the analysis of air traffic control audio recordings containing transmissions from the accident aircraft. To facilitate this assistance and protect the audio data and sensitive information received from the CAA, an external investigation was initiated under the provisions of the Australian Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003. 

The ATSB has completed an analysis of the recordings and has provided the results of this analysis to the CAA of New Zealand.

The chief executive of 2degrees who died in a plane crash would not have been allowed to fly had he told authorities he had depression.

In a report released today, the Civil Aviation Authority said its investigators still cannot say for sure what caused the crash that killed American Eric Hertz, 58, and his wife Katherine, 64, in March 2013.

The couple died when their twin-engine Beechcraft Baron went into a spin and plunged into the sea off the coast of Raglan about 30 minutes into the flight.

The authority described the investigation of the crash as one of the most complex and high-profile ever.

"The investigation was extraordinarily complex from day one with a major recovery operation required involving Raglan Coastguard (Gallagher Rescue), police and Navy divers and use of the Navy's specialist dive vessel, the HMNZS Manawanui, complete with a crew of 40 people for 10 days," it said.

"The wreckage was submerged on the ocean floor 56 metres below the surface."

In its report, it does not conclusively say what caused the plane to lose airspeed, but a sudden loss of power in the left engine is suspected.

Mr Hertz was suffering from depression and anxiety and taking medication, and while the authority said this had no effect on the crash, he would never have been allowed to fly had it known.

The report did reference his mental illness several times.

"The pilot's loss of situational awareness was most likely caused by the aircraft being operated in cloud," it said.

"The pilot's mental health condition, and the associated medication that the pilot was taking, likely exacerbated his loss of situational awareness.

"It is likely that once, the aircraft was in a spin, the pilot could not have recovered... The CAA has not suggested this was the cause of the accident."

Mr Hertz was a US certificated pilot and the plane was a US registered aircraft.

The report recommends better oversight of privately operated, foreign-registered aircraft.

The families of Mr and Mrs Hertz issued a statement shortly after the report was released.

They said they were disappointed no conclusive reason for the crash was given.

"There are no answers yet as to why an aircraft that had recently experienced a similar engine failure on the very same engine, when fitted with an after-market turbocharger system with significant manufacturing inconsistencies, was then cleared to fly with a known insecure part on one engine," the statement said.

"The answers to these questions reach beyond our families, benefiting other owners of Beechcraft Baron Aircraft worldwide that either have been modified with this type of turbocharger system or are considering it.

"Ultimately our deepest concern at this point is that this doesn't happen again to others."

NTSB Identification: WPR13WA177  
14 CFR Non-U.S., Non-Commercial
Accident occurred Friday, March 29, 2013 in Kawhia Harbour, New Zealand, New Zealand
Aircraft: BEECH G58, registration: N254F
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On March 29, 2013, at 2320 universal coordinated time, a Beech G58, N254F, ditched in the ocean about 11 nautical miles west of Kawhia Harbour, New Zealand. The airplane was registered to Kiwi Lion LLC, and operated under the pertinent civil regulations of New Zealand. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed.

Just prior to the ditching, the pilot radioed a loss of engine power.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Government of New Zealand. This report is for information purposes only and contains only information released by the Government of New Zealand. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
P.O. Box 3555
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

Tel: (64) 4-560-9400
Fax: (64) 4-569-2024

The tragic crash that killed 2degrees chief executive Eric Hertz and his wife, Kathy, has puzzled one aviation expert. Michael Field , Jenna Lynch and Paul Easton report.

As experts prepare to investigate what caused the accident that killed 2degrees boss Eric Hertz and his wife, Kathy, police are warning that recovering their bodies off the coast of Kawhia will be a long process.

The couple were in their twin-engine Beechcraft G58 Baron on Saturday when it plunged into the sea about 20 kilometres northwest of the entrance to Kawhia Harbour.

Police say the debris field near Gannet Island suggests they hit the water at high speed.

They are believed to be in 60 metres of water and the depth will make recovering the bodies difficult.

Civil Aviation Authority will investigate the cause of the crash but Hamilton-based airline aviation expert Ewan Wilson who spoke to Mr Hertz just a day before the accident said when a twin-engine plane lost an engine, it didn't usually result in a fatal crash.

Mr Wilson said he did not want to speculate on the cause of the crash but media reports said Mr Hertz had radioed Airways New Zealand to report engine failure and seconds later vanished off the radar screen.

"It would be unusual to ditch an airplane with only one engine down.

"And it would be unusual for an airplane like the Beechcraft G58 Baron to crash with a single engine failure," he said.

Mr Wilson met Eric and Kathy Hertz on Good Friday at the Waihi Beach airport and they wished each other a happy flight.

But just after noon the next day, the couple's aircraft plummeted from the sky.

Mr Wilson remembered them as a "happy couple" who were "really passionate about aviation". He had discussed aviation and aircraft at length with Mr Hertz and was probably one of the last people to do so.

Conditions at the time of the accident were fine and clear and Mr Hertz, who had 10 years' flying experience, was instrument-rated. One of his brothers is a United States Navy aviation instructor.

Police yesterday sent out a dive squad with sonar equipment but Waikato police Inspector Marcus Lynam warned the depth of the wreck meant the recovery of the bodies would be difficult.

With the aircraft submerged at 60 metres, police needed to determine the structural integrity of the plane to see if they could recover the bodies safely, he said.

"It's a very complex operation . . . We believe the NZ Navy have dived that deep. However, it's very difficult to get down."

Police would do everything possible to get the bodies back to their family, Mr Lynam said.

The crash is an eerie echo of a 2005 tragedy in which liquor magnate Michael Erceg and companion Guus Klatte were killed when their helicopter crashed into a forested area between Kawhia and Raglan.

A keen aviator, Mr Hertz had flown extensively in his homeland and in New Zealand.

Last year he won a gold medal at a vintage airshow in Wisconsin for a World War II-era Beech 17 plane he also owns.

Two Civil Aviation Authority investigators were preparing to study the cause of the crash yesterday.

The CAA could not start work until the crash scene was made available by police, who were taking all steps to find the occupants, spokesman Mike Richards said.

"The task of examining the wreckage will be quite difficult because of the depth of water."

Decompression sickness can be experienced at depths beyond around 30 metres, so the CAA would need specialist equipment and divers.

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