Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Committee told dead pilot was taunted: PZL-Mielec M-18A Dromader, VH-TZJ, accident occurred October 24, 2013, west of Ulladulla, New South Wales - Australia

Water-bombing pilot, David Black, killed when his plane crashed while fighting the Shoalhaven bushfires last month, was taunted before take-off for voicing his reluctance to fly in bad weather.

A parliamentary committee has heard the 43-year-old pilot, who died when his PZL-Mielec M-18A Dromader aircraft crashed in Budawang National Park on October 24, was told “real men and real pilots would be up there”.

Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan told a Senate hearing into operations of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority he was disgusted at reports pilots were taunted by the RFS because they did not want to fly in the gale force winds.

“I’m disgusted as I’m informed that on that day it was pretty rugged weather and ...[pilots] were taunted by the Rural Fire Service because these guys didn’t particularly want to fly,” Senator Heffernan told the Senate hearing.

The NSW senator said another pilot reported that Mr Black was told “real men and real pilots would be up there”.

He said the RFS’s opinions were “outside the ambit of safety guidelines of air safety” and asked CASA to clarify its working relationship with the fire authority during emergency operations.

CASA director of aviation safety John McCormick said pilots were contracted by the bushfire service during water bombing.

“We do rely on the expertise of the people who are involved with the firefighting ... I think it’s terrible if they gave him intimidation to fly,” Mr McCormick said.

The co-owner of an agricultural company which operates nine aircraft, Mr Black has been remembered by family and colleagues as a skilled and respected professional.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating the crash in which witnesses saw a wing snap off Mr Black’s aircraft before it plummeted to the ground.

Since the October crash Australia’s fleet of Dromader M18 aircraft have been grounded as a precautionary measure by the CASA.

Many of the aircraft, typically used for crop spraying, have undergone modification allowing them to carry increased weights.

Senator Heffernan said the aircraft should not be authorised for such activities.

“The rougher the weather and the more speed they’ve got to have to put the fire out, the more load you put on the wings and hence when the wing fell off this plane it shouldn’t have fallen off,” he said.

Source:   http://www.southcoastregister.com.au


In-flight breakup involving PZL Mielec M18A Dromader aircraft, VH-TZJ, 37 km west of Ulladulla, NSW on 24 October 2013

Investigation number: AO-2013-187

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