Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pilots failed to 'see, avoid' - report

An inquiry into the 2010 mid-air collision between two Cessna aircraft which killed two people in Feilding has found neither the pilots nor the flight instructor recognized their airplanes were on a collision course.

Flight instructor 27-year old Jessica Neeson and her 64-year-old trainee pilot Patricia Smallman were killed when their Cessna 152 collided with 21-year-old Manoj Kadam's aircraft, nosediving into the ground.

Ms Smallman had taken up flying in February 2008 and flown solo for the first time in June that year. At the time of the accident she had 98 flying hours under her belt.

The TAIC report has found Mr Kadam, who at the time had 74 hours of flying experience, definitely did not see the other aircraft before the collision – but could not determine whether Ms Smallman or Ms Neeson had.

All three failed to initiate a concept known as 'see and avoid', a fundamental requirement for flight under visual flight rules, says chief commissioner John Marshall QC.

Mr Marshall also said the reason for the inquiry wasn't to pass blame, but to prevent further incidents.

"In telling the story like it is, there will inevitably be an inference of blame," he says. "Rather than unfairly focusing on blame, the media, public and industry must instead focus on what can be learned and share the responsibility to help prevent similar accidents in the future".

The report found that Ms Neeson, who had accrued 1566 flying hours at the time of the accident, should have been able to recognize the potential for a mid-air collision and take avoiding action.

The TAIC has recommended the Civil Aviation Authority educate pilots at all levels of the importance of the concept of 'see and avoid' for detecting and avoiding aircraft, the limitations of that concept and the importance of making clear and concise radio transmissions to warn other aircraft of locations and intentions.

The CAA has responded to the first recommendations by saying the authority already believes the current level of education is sufficient. However, it has picked up the third recommendation to review aircraft paint schemes and lighting to improve the reliability of the 'see and avoid' concept.

The commission also released a second report this morning into flying safety training, but could find no systemic problems due to a lack of evidence.

The TAIC says the CAA needs to have better data collection and analysis systems in place so it can identify any trends or issues.

However, Mr Marshall says new Zealand's fatality rates for training accidents are "broadly comparable" with Australia and the United States.

Mr Marshall says a recurring theme in the inquiry process was a lack of available data that might have contributed to safety occurrences.

"This meant that while we did not find evidence to support anecdotal claims of issues, we could not exclude them either."

The CAA has agreed to review its data systems and processes, do more qualitative safety research and improve instructor demographics and performance data collection and use.


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