Pilot said to be helpless to prevent crash
Thu, 16 Aug 2012 5:10p.m.
A former Civil Aviation Authority investigator has told an inquest that the pilot could have done little to prevent the Skydive New Zealand plane crash at Fox Glacier that cost nine lives.
Mark Houston, who has 36 years experience in the aviation industry, said pilot Chaminda Senadhira was likely to have had "no control and limited ability" to stop the Fletcher FU24 nosediving to the ground on September 4, 2010 soon after taking off.
Contrary to the findings of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) that excess weight and imbalance were major causes of the crash, Mr Houston said he did not believe weight caused the pilot to lose control of the plane.
Speaking at the fourth day of the inquest in Greymouth, Mr Houston said he believed the plane had not created enough energy to allow a weight shift.
He also said the Fletcher aircraft had a "remarkable ability" to counter any loss in the aircraft's centre of gravity at the time of take-off.
Even in the event of a leeward movement of weight during take-off, the aircraft control would not have been affected, Mr Houston said.
The theory that the plane's trim mechanism was improperly set and at fault, was also discounted as the pilot would have become aware during take-off and aborted it.
Mr Houston believed the possibility of engine failure had been dismissed too quickly by the TAIC, saying there had been many instances of Fletcher engine and control failures in New Zealand.
Mr Senadhira, dive-masters Adam Bennett, Michael Suter, Christopher McDonald and Rod Miller, and tourists Glenn Bourke from Australia, Patrick Byrne from Ireland, Annita Kirsten from Germany and Brad Coker from England died in the crash.
Coroner David Crerar is expected to hear final evidence on Friday.
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