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R22 mayhem caused by poor #casa investigations

Jack Pantovic got his day in court, with the AAT findings published on 18th December 2015.

[Update on 25th December 2015]

A casual conversation finds Jack [Jason Pantovic in the AAT] an R22 helicopter mustering pilot based just north of Mareeba, a bloke that works long hours and in a dangerous occupation.

The AAT finding mocks #casa in how it carried out it’s investigation and one can see many parallels with the earlier John Quadrio case and a R44 Robinson helicopter. [In the more detailed notes, the AAT numbers are used from the AAT judgement]

In the recent past, although not reported by the AAT hearing in Pantovic’s case, #casa have been called out for not assisting the AAT [Model Litigant Obligations] and I believe that should have occurred in this case.

The press certainly are not impressed, calling “…a #casa bungle…”

See attached clippings below.

To sum up:

  • There are unfounded accusations;
  • At least one witness was coerced by a #casa investigator;
  • Witnesses were allowed, by the Canberra based investigator [Mr Leif Nystrom] to “conspire”;
  • Many individuals tried to step away from taking any responsibility during the conduct of the AAT hearing.

25. As well he might: the nature of the allegations and the way they were offered up to CASA should have prompted a measure of scepticism. But CASA investigators were quick – too quick – to embrace Mr Gibb, and they tended to interpret the rest of the evidence with Mr Gibb’s evidence firmly in mind. It was a classic example of ‘confirmation bias’.

29. Mr Nystrom’s role in any event. He did not simply “take on board any information that [he received]”. There appeared to be an element of selectivity in his approach to the evidence. For example, Mr Nystrom did not approach another potential witness, Mr Allan Scott. Mr Scott was a friend of Mr Pantovic. Mr Gibb told Mr Nystrom that Mr Scott was unlikely to give evidence, and Mr Nystrom took his enquiries no further. When Mr Emmett asked in cross-examination why Mr Nystrom did not approach Mr Scott, who might help Mr Pantovic, but approached other witnesses who were suggested by Mr Gibb, Mr Nystrom again insisted it was not his investigation: transcript at p 118.

  • Basis of “we can prove this” matter [keep on going!!]:

“………..Mr Leif Nystrom said he first became involved in the matter when he was tasked by the manager of investigations [sic Narelle Tredrea] to take statements from, amongst others, Mr Gibb. Mr Nystrom insisted in his oral evidence that he was not carrying out an investigation as such. He said he was merely “working on a tasking” assigned to him by others………..”

  • Local investigator – Mark Haslam [in Cairns since 1999] and behind the scenes in the John Quadrio affair:

“…………Mr Haslam was invited to comment on whether he was satisfied the flights in question all occurred.
Curiously, he declined to do so. He said he had not formed a view. He explained he was not present so he was not in a position to talk about whether the flights occurred as alleged. That is puzzling.
When pressed to explain himself, he said (transcript at p 146): 32.

All I can say that this is what has been reported to us, and on that basis then if they did occur, then this is CASA’s position.

33. I am not sure what that means. It certainly seems odd that an investigator has no view about the integrity of the evidence he provided to the Tribunal. As it happens, Mr Haslam subsequently gave a different view of his role when he said in cross-examination (transcript at p 158):

We get gut feelings, all sorts of things, all the time, and we act on those gut feelings.

  • Conspiring between witnesses

35. It is unsurprising that Mr Haslam would seek to shore up Mr Gibb’s evidence. He must have been aware of the problems that were apparent from the running sheets recording the details of Mr Nystrom’s investigation: transcript at p 149ff. Mr Haslam must have been aware that Mr Gibb and Mr Gear were talking to each other about their evidence. He agreed in cross-examination that he never instructed Mr Gibb or Mr Gear not to talk to other witnesses about the evidence: transcript at pp 151-152. His own running sheets confirm Ms Andersen told him on 7 May 2014 that she had also read Mr Gibb’s statement. He agreed he did not caution her against discussing the evidence with Mr Gibb even though he anticipated obtaining a statement from her: transcript at p 153.

36. Mr Haslam said he was aware of the difficulties in the relationship between Mr Gibb and Ms Andersen – although he conceded he did not make any record of threats of violence being made by Mr Gibb against Ms Andersen: transcript at p 165. He said he kept those difficulties in the back of his mind but added (transcript, at p 154):

… I rely on the witness to tell the truth in relation to their dealings, and if they are prepared to sign a statement attesting to the evidence they’re giving me, then I have to have some faith that they are telling me the truth.

  • Standing over witnesses [coercion] by Mark Haslam

39. This is worrying stuff. Mr Haslam clearly formed an adverse view of Mr Pantovic and he was prepared to pressure witnesses into cooperating with his “investigative activities” by enlisting the assistance of the local constabulary in what was not, at that point, a criminal investigation. He demonstrated slightly more subtlety when he was discussing significant changes Ms Andersen wanted to make to her draft statement. She had indicated she wanted to remove a number of passages from the draft Mr Haslam had prepared and discussed with her previously. Mr Haslam contacted her and, in effect, talked her out of making the changes: transcript at pp 171-172. He denied he pressured, hassled or badgered her to sign the statement without making the changes she sought. She agreed to sign the statement without significant amendment after Mr Haslam visited her: transcript at pp 171-173. Given Ms Andersen has since renounced what she said in her statement, Mr Haslam’s role in convincing her to sign it is particularly unfortunate.

John Quadrio’s case:  A similar report is made by #casa’s prime witness, Ben Coglan, when he told John Moore, the #casa investigator for Quadrio. Remember, although Haslam never appears in this paperwork, an interview with John tells us that Haslam was in the background.




  • Use of tainted material:

40. I have already noted Mr Haslam was aware Mr Gibb had an axe to grind. Mr Haslam was also questioned in cross-examination about his discussion with Ms Sally Morris. The investigator’s running sheet annexed to exhibit 20  included an entry for 19 May 2014 which recorded the following information:

41. She asked if I was aware that there are some nasty vindictive people trying to do awful things to [Mr Pantovic]. I said I was not interested in any potential personal conflicts and only interested in facts surrounding the operation of the helicopter …
In cross-examination, Mr Haslam said he responded in that way because he wanted to focus on the aviation-related matters and did not want to be distracted by personal issues. He insisted (transcript at p 173):

I’m not interested in the private affairs of the persons involved. I want to get to the facts of the matter.

  • Bias in the investigation:

43. The CASA investigators did not do a good job. They were clearly predisposed to believe Mr Gibb and ignored warning signs about the reliability of his evidence. They allowed him to contaminate the evidence provided by other witnesses when they failed to warn him, and the other witnesses, that they should not discuss their statements with each other. The investigators gave Mr Gibb too much credit and may have relied on him too heavily to identify and contact witnesses. They also appeared to bring pressure to bear on witnesses to cooperate – cooperation that was subsequently withdrawn.

  • False allegations and statements:

47. I will deal with the allegations about the flight first. I have already noted Mr Gibb was an unreliable
witness who was motivated by malice. CASA has produced other witnesses to corroborate his
account. But before I proceed to consider those witnesses, I should first deal with Mr Gear.

48. Mr Gear did not give evidence at the hearing. That is a pity. He was supposedly the third person in the helicopter on the fateful flight to the Mount Molloy hotel in 2012. It seems he was unwilling to cooperate with CASA. That much was clear from the statement of Mr Nystrom, the CASA investigator who spoke with Mr Gear: exhibit 13. Mr Nystrom spoke with Gear on a number of occasions and prepared drafts of a statement. Mr Gear refused or failed to sign the draft statement and avoided further contact with Mr Nystrom after initially providing some information: at [15].
The unsigned witness statement was included in the s 37 documents: exhibit 1 at p 261ff. In that statement, Mr Gear confirmed he was friends with Mr Gibb and Mr Pantovic and that he had discussed the matter with Mr Gibb before making the statement.

49. Mr Gear also provided CASA with a statutory declaration dated 24 April 2014. That statement is annexed to Mr Nystrom’s statement and is reproduced in exhibit 1 at p 186. Mr Gear said:

I didn’t accompany Jason Pantovic and Alan Gibb on a flight to Mt molloy in December 2011. And have never been in a helicopter with Jason Pantovic ever.

Again, a similar process used in the “investigation” of John Quadrio and the false statements in the Richard Rudd debacle.

Richard Rudd – The Wilga

Richard Rudd gets his FOI via the Information Commissioner

  • Likely improper statements and changed statements:

One of the men alighted from the helicopter and went into the hotel to purchase a slab of beer. (Mr Gibb said in his first statement that he recalled it was the applicant who went into the pub to acquire the beer: exhibit 8 at [19]. He [Gibb] changed his story in his second statement. He said he had gone into the pub to buy the beer where he also had a conversation with Mr Mark Wessels: exhibit 9 at [11]-[12].) The person who acquired the beer returned with the hefty slab and boarded the helicopter. Mr Gibb recalled it was placed in the compartment under the seat: exhibit 9 at [13], although he did not provide that detail in his earlier statement.

  • Statements used by #casa, despite no verification:

48. ……………………..Mr Gear refused or failed to sign the draft statement and avoided further contact with Mr Nystrom after initially providing some information: at [15].
The unsigned witness statement was included in the s 37 documents: exhibit 1 at p 261ff. In that statement, Mr Gear confirmed he was friends with Mr Gibb and Mr Pantovic and that he had discussed the matter with Mr Gibb before making the statement.

  • Collusion of witnesses:

48……………The unsigned witness statement was included in the s 37 documents: exhibit 1 at p 261ff. In that statement, Mr Gear confirmed he was friends with Mr Gibb and Mr Pantovic and that he had discussed the matter with Mr Gibb before making the statement.

  • Evidence overturned, yet #casa prepared to use material:

50. ………….I cannot give the unsigned statement any weight. The applicant did not have the opportunity to cross-examine Mr Gear. Given the question marks which have arisen over his evidence – the potential influence of Mr Gibb, for example – and the fact Mr Gear has given an inconsistent statement (which I also propose to set aside), I am satisfied it would be unfair to use the document.
I turn then to the other evidence.

  • Evidence manufacturing by #casa by using “expert’s” and the AAT giving more weight to the regulator than applicant as #casa is the “expert”:

51. It was initially suggested it may not be physically possible to squeeze three people into the cabin of an R-22 helicopter. I wondered about that after I had the opportunity to inspect an R-22 at Cairns airport in the course of a view organised by the parties. It is a very small aircraft. But CASA’s expert witness, Mr David Lamb, was able to demonstrate three people could be squeezed into the tiny cabin, albeit uncomfortably. The applicant conceded it was possible.

Mr Lamb also testified the helicopter was capable of achieving and sustaining flight with three people aboard, albeit that its performance was dangerously compromised: exhibit 22 at [21]. That evidence was contradicted by the applicant’s expert, Mr Barry Dick, an experienced pilot who had flown overloaded helicopters
during his military service.

Mr Dick doubted whether there would be sufficient aft cyclic available when the helicopter was overloaded and its centre of gravity was too far forward: transcript at pp 304-305. In final submissions, the applicant conceded Mr Lamb’s opinion “should carry some weight” and conceded the evidence, taken as a whole, did not establish it would have been impossible for the helicopter to achieve flight and make it back to its point of origin when overloaded in the way described by CASA’s witnesses: submissions at [30]. I agree. I accept Mr Lamb’s evidence corroborates Mr Gibb’s evidence to the extent Mr Lamb’s evidence shows the flight was practically possible.

[Barry Dick is an ATO, Instructor, R22/R44 specialist and rated in a range of other helicopters including turbine]

  • Witness tampering by #casa investigator?:

59. Mr Bale was also evasive about how often he patronised the Mount Molloy hotel and how well he knew the locals: transcript at p 30. He flatly denied knowing Mr Gibb and claimed they only met for the first time on the morning of the hearing before he gave evidence: transcript at pp 34, 35. Mr Bale said he had not discussed the incident with anyone apart from Mr Peters (and, presumably, Mr Haslam and the police officer who visited at Mr Haslam’s request). That seems odd given he was a key witness to what surely must have been a major event in the small town.

60. Mr Emmett suggested to Mr Bale that his recollection was influenced by his discussions with Mr Haslam, the CASA investigator. Mr Bale denied Mr Haslam had threatened prosecution if Mr Bale failed to cooperate although Mr Bale did recall swearing one of his statements at the police station: transcript at p 36. The following exchange (transcript at p 42) was telling:

Mr Emmett: Mr Bale, I need to suggest to you that you don’t have the clear recollection that you’re saying you have and that in your discussions with Mr Haslam you may have come to think you recall things more clearly than you do, is that possible?
Mr Bale: That’s true. Some things I can remember and some I can’t.

61. I am not satisfied I can rely on the evidence of Mr Bale. He has given a prior inconsistent statement that he did not adequately explain, and he was evasive, vague and inconsistent in his oral evidence.
He accepted he has a poor memory. That concession was obviously justified. I am also concerned there is a real risk his evidence has been contaminated by an over-eager investigator [sic – Haslam could not be described as this, as has been involved with #casa investigations since at least 1999] – or by someone else – who appears to have supplied details which were included in Mr Bale’s statement but which he did not independently collected. His nervous behaviour in the witness box suggested it was possible he was fearful of being prosecuted himself following the involvement of the police.

It should be noted that Mr. Bale, not only was the local “bus-driver”, but was living in a caravan at the “…back of the hotel…”. This happening [60/ 61], which is now “writ in stone” by this AAT finding, is seen in Quadrio, Rudd and independent investigations into the Christmas eve grounding of Barrier Aviation in Cairns in 2013 show the manipulation of witnesses or just plain false statements.

  • Refusal by potential witnesses to #casa questioning:

66. Mr Peters was obviously uncomfortable about being called to give evidence. He said as much to the CASA investigators when they approached him to provide a statement. During cross-examination, he suggested the whole affair was much ado about nothing. He said the incident was petty: transcript at p 211. That attitude may explain why he gave evidence in such a cagey manner. But there were other problems with his account which call his reliability into question………………

This refusal  is a common theme in what are starting to look like “dodgy brothers investigations” and as in the Quadrio case when the main witness [a 24 year old, undeclared 7 page career criminal] who refused to be involved and on his own witnessed statement was prevented from telling the Quadrio AAT hearing by the Member, that John Quadrio was not the pilot of the Exhibit “E” flight that appeared on YouTube video. Make up your mind if this was dangerous, or if #casa were using their resources to “convict”.

Download direct from site:   No sound video – Exhibit “E”

Download direct from site: Video with sound – Exhibit “E”

Information came forward, when the shoes worn by the pilot in Video E [the posted YouTube video], where not those of Quadrio, when a proper forensic investigation of the YouTube video was made in 2013. The referral to #casa and the AFP came to an abrupt halt when the witness, Ben Coglan was threatened by a #casa employee during the AFP investigation.

The response from CEO Mark Skidmore was [not my problem (sic)] “….refer it to the AFP] and the matter rolls on into it’s eighth year.

  • Witness / evidence tampering:

67. If Mr Peters’ [Publican] written statement was short of detail, his oral evidence was even more confusing. He was unable to offer a coherent description of what occurred. Aspects of his account were improbable. It was also apparent that at least some of the detail had been supplied to him. I do not think I should give his evidence any weight in the circumstances.

  • Unreliable evidence:

69. In what had become a familiar pattern, Mr Wessels [Pub patron] was much less certain of his story when he gave oral evidence. He was unsure whether there were three people in the helicopter, for example: he said he saw a pair of legs sticking out of the cabin, but the only occupant he was sure about was Mr Gibb. Indeed, Mr Wessels confirmed he told the applicant’s solicitor, Mr Glynn, in a telephone conversation that “for all I know it could have been Gibbo flying that chopper”: transcript at p 415

71. Mr Wessels was unable to elaborate on many of the details of his account, and became exasperated when pressed – as the following exchange demonstrated (transcript at p 422):

Mr Emmett: Is it true or false or do you not care if it’s true?
Mr Wessels: It’s nothing to do with not caring. I – sitting here at this point, I don’t even know what year this happened. You’re trying to get me to recollect stuff that I don’t remember and I honestly don’t care about, mate. This is not my concern …

72. …………………….There may well have been friction in the relationship with Mr Gibb once CASA became involved and it became clear Mr Wessels would be required to give evidence. Mr Wessels noted he was upset at that prospect and he was annoyed he had become entangled in the whole affair. He claims he told Mr Gibb as much and Mr Gibb said he would “speak to someone” to see if he really would be required to give evidence: transcript at p 425.

  • Interference with witness statements by #casa investigators:

73. Taken at its highest, Mr Wessels’ evidence does not put Mr Pantovic at the scene on the day in question. I would add that Mr Gibb’s involvement may also have tainted the evidence of this witness. It was apparent from Mr Wessels’ evidence that Mr Gibb was acting as some sort of go-between with CASA investigators. Mr Haslam also prepared the witness statement for Mr Wessels, albeit Mr Wessels said he communicated the substance of the statement over the phone.
Mr Wessels said he only ever saw one draft of the statement that was emailed to him and he signed what had been written without further comment. That is surprising. One would have thought several drafts would be required when an investigator preparing a statement was trying to capture what he had been told by the witness over the phone. When Mr Ashton asked Mr Wessels about the accuracy of the statement, Mr Wessels’ answer (transcript at p 430) was not very encouraging:

Mr Ashton: Mr Wessels, is that what you – paragraph 16, is that what you told Mr Haslam?
Mr Wessels: The best way I can answer that is, everything that’s in that statement, paragraph start to finish, if that’s what’s written there, I’m hoping that Mark Haslam wrote it down as I said it.

The familiarity between the witness, as shown above certainly leads one to believe that there is a serious improper relationship in all of the activities involving #casa. The Canberra connection, the Mark Haslam connection and improper relationships between the witnesses. That the AAT can say:

44. I do not suggest the CASA investigators acted dishonestly or in bad faith. They were simply taken in by a story about Mr Pantovic and then pursued him in a determined and blinkered way, confident in their conviction that he had done that which was alleged against him.

That the AAT could let #casa off the hook, at 42, when the evidence discussed further leads one to a conclusion [even though one was not present at the hearing], #casa is guilty as charged.

A quick look at the Richard Rudd case leads to the same conclusion, when concocted statements were produced by two #casa personnel after the event and the accusation of illegal maintenance. Of course the CDPP bailed out of the action at the Mareeba Court.

John Quadrio was not so lucky, when after seven criminal charges, the faulty evidence and a Barristers opinion, the CDPP also bailed out of the action.

Where John Quadrio lost was that #casa used double jeopardy and the poor evidence procedures of the AAT to convict him, together with a failure to adhere to model litigant provisions..

John maintains his innocence, which is certainly substantiated when the CDPP bailed out on the basis of the poor evidence and later as was discovered, that the principal witness was a known felon and recently has been threatened by a #casa employee.

  • Use of conflicted evidence:

74. It became apparent from the exchange following that answer (transcript at p 431) that Mr Wessels was basing his recollection on the contents of the statement, rather than on an independent recollection of what occurred that was faithfully recorded in the statement.

75. I am not inclined to give the evidence of Mr Wessels any weight, given the uncertainty and inconsistencies in his account in the witness box. I am satisfied it is appropriate to be especially wary of his evidence given my doubts over whether Mr Wessels’ recollection of events was influenced by others.

  • Misuse of LAME evidence:

77. …………………….Mr Johnston said he thought the blade was de-laminating, by which he meant the blade skin was coming off. He said he was aware of reports that rotor blades of this kind had experienced spontaneous de-lamination because of a manufacturing defect. The blades were not immediately replaced; the damage was not sufficiently serious at that point, although the defect was reported to Robinson, the manufacturer. The LAME finally replaced the blades in June 2012 with a new set: exhibit 33 at [49].

78. Robinson denied the blades were spontaneously de-laminating and said there was no manufacturing defect. CASA says the blade was damaged in the incident at the Mount Molloy hotel when the aircraft struck vegetation as it struggled to achieve flight. Mr Johnston said the evidence was not consistent with that conclusion. He said he examined both blades very carefully and remarked (exhibit 41 at [20]):

I did not observe any evidence of any other damage to the rotor blades. In particular, I did not observe any dents or other evidence of the rotor blades having struck an object in flight.

Is this just another (as happened with Richard Rudd), making evidence fit the “required circumstances”. That Mr. Johnson reported the defect to Robinson is important, as it is a support that there had not been a “strike”, but spontaneous de-lamination.

79. Mr Johnston expressly rejected the suggestion that the bulge he observed was consistent with “treestrike”.
He said (at [24]) there would be identical damage to both rotor blades if the spinning rotors had struck foliage. Mr Stallard, the CASA airworthiness inspector, agreed one would ordinarily expect to see damage to both blades in that event: transcript at p 129. Mr Lamb, CASA’s expert, was not convinced.

83. Mr Lamb’s evidence is decisive. I am satisfied he is the best-qualified of all the witnesses to explain the likely source of the damage to the rotor blade. He says the blade was most likely damaged when it impacted with a foreign body in the course of flight. That foreign body may have been foliage, which is consistent with CASA’s case; the fact the damage occurred on only one blade, and away from the leading edge of that blade, does not exclude the possibility of tree-strike. But Mr Lamb’s evidence clearly suggests the deformity might also have been the product of a bird strike which the pilot di d not notice. Indeed, I took Mr Lamb’s evidence to mean that a bird strike was the most likely explanation for the damage observed on the blade.

  • Damaged evidence and inconsistencies:

92. When called to give telephone evidence, Mr Sides was less certain of the matters referred to in his statement. He confirmed he was a close friend of Mr Gibb (close enough to be a confidant (transcript at p 83)) and that he was aware of Mr Gibb’s anger towards Mr Pantovic. Mr Sides said he had not spoken to Mr Gibb about any evidence he would give although Mr Gibb had contacted him about the proceedings when Mr Gibb introduced Mr Haslam (transcript at p 82). Mr Gibb said in cross-examination that he had spoken with Mr Sides after Mr Sides had spoken with Mr Haslam.
Mr Gibb wanted to know “what they asked him”: transcript at p 63. That inconsistency is troubling. Mr Ashton pointed out in his submissions that Mr Sides might not have appreciated the difference between discussing the evidence as opposed to the proceedings, but I do not think anything turns on that distinction. While Mr Sides insisted he was not giving evidence at the request of Mr Gibb, Mr Sides was evasive in cross-examination about the extent to which Mr Gibb might have assisted him with his story.

95. …………………If Mr Sides’ statement is accurate, Mr Pantovic is in serious trouble. A person who drank nine or 10 stubbies over a relatively short period was not fit to drive, let alone fly a helicopter. But the accounts of Mr Sides and Mr Donovan are directly inconsistent on some telling points – most obviously in relation to whether Mr Donovan was doling out the beer from a cooler throughout the flight.

Whom should I believe?

96. The applicant [Jack Pantovic] says I must keep in mind the malevolent role played by Mr Gibb who was working hand in hand with over-enthusiastic CASA investigators. Mr Sides agreed he was a long-term friend of Mr Gibb (although Mr Donovan is hardly independent of Mr Pantovic). Mr Sides said he only became aware of an investigation into Mr Pantovic when he received a call from Mr Gibb on 13 August 2014: at [23]. He went on (at [24]):
During the same telephone conversation, I spoke to a person I now know to be Senior Investigator Mark Haslam from CASA who asked me a series of questions relating to the flight …

97. That statement tends to confirm Mr Gibb was playing an active role in the investigation, and was identifying and liaising with witnesses on CASA’s behalf.

  • False allegations of alcohol consumption:

Ultimately, the AAT member says:

100. I am not persuaded the applicant was consuming alcohol before, between or during the flights to and from the Mount Carbine hotel with Messrs Gibb, Sides and Donovan.

  • Consumption of alcohol and use of the “video sequence”:

103. It gets worse. After the aircraft took off, Mr Pantovic admitted one of the passengers passed him a stubby of beer. The applicant consumed the beverage as they flew home. During that flight, he accepts he also flew low over the water. Flying low over water is very dangerous, even when the pilot has not been drinking (or does not have a beer in his hand, or in his lap). Mr Lamb said the aircraft was flying as little as 10-15 feet above the surface of the ocean. He was able to make that estimate because the whole sequence of events was captured on a video shot by one of the passengers, none of whom were wearing life jackets: exhibit 2.

……………..The applicant [Jack Pantovic] initially argued his experience of low flying whilst undertaking mustering work conferred an advantage on him when flying over the water, but he conceded that was not so in cross-examination: transcript at p 319.

  • #casa case and alleged offences:

105. I turn then to the breaches which occurred on the other trip to Mount Carbine with Mr Gibb and the Morris brothers. CASA says – and I accept – the video footage and the applicant’s admissions confirm the following breaches occurred while he was pilot in command:
CAR 225(1): failing to ensure a pilot remained at the controls of the aircraft while the engine
was running;
CAR 157(1)(b): flying the aircraft over water at a height lower than 500 feet; and
CAO 20.11: failing to ensure each of his passengers wore life jackets while flying over water.

106. CASA also said the applicant breached CAR 256(3), which prohibits a member of the operating crew of an aircraft from consuming any alcoholic liquor in the period of 8 hours immediately preceding the departure of the aircraft. But I did not find that Mr Pantovic consumed alcohol before the flight – I found he consumed a beer during the flight. Consuming alcoholic liquor during a flight while acting as a member of the aircrew is a contravention of CAR 256(4). I am satisfied that breach has been made out.

108. CASA said Mr Pantovic also breached s 20A of the Act. Section 20A prohibits the reckless operation of an aircraft that could endanger the life of a person, or their property.

  • Reliance anduUse of CAAct 9A:

110. I begin by acknowledging s 9A of the Act requires that I regard the safety of air navigation as the most important consideration.

  • The findings [subject to appeal] and process:

I do not think it is necessary or appropriate to cancel Mr Pantovic’s flight crew licences. The decision to cancel is therefore set aside.

Mr Pantovic has offered (in exhibit 4) to enter into enforceable undertakings to submit to a number of obligations and limits if he is allowed to continue flying, but I fear that will not send the right message to the wider aviation community. I am inclined to suspend his licence for a period of time.

A period of suspension is required to confirm this sort of “cowboy” behaviour will not be tolerated. In all the circumstances, I think the correct or preferable decision is to vary the decision under review and suspend the applicant’s flight crew licences for a period of six months – but I am minded to order that the suspension will itself be suspended after one month if the applicant enters into enforceable undertakings pursuant to s 30DK of the Act along the following lines:

The applicant undergo urine testing, at the beginning of each month for both drugs and alcohol and provide to the CASA Aviation Medicine branch the test results as prepared by an accredited laboratory in accordance with secure sample collection protocols.
i. The applicant restricts his flying to commercial activities and will not conduct any other flying activities as pilot in command, with the exception of delivering a helicopter for any maintenance and positioning a helicopter for commercial activity.
ii. The applicant provide to the CASA Cairns Regional office at the end of each week, a complete listing of all flights conducted over the previous week, including details as to the purpose of the flight, duration and destination, the Air Operator’s Certificate under which the flight was conducted, and the identity of any persons carried as a passenger.
iii. The applicant will, when due for his Bi Annual flight test conduct that test with a CASA officer.

  • Review of other cases:

The AAT member refers to the Jones and the Quadrio cases, saying that Quadrio’s was a more serious case. In fact, in the Quadrio case, Quadrio was castigated for failing to acknowledge his “error”.

In Quadrio and Civil Aviation Safety Authority [2011] AATA 709 the Tribunal observed that it is possible to say that a fit and proper pilot is one who has an appreciation of the statutory responsibilities and one who discharges them.

The Tribunal [Ekinci] observed that:

17. “It is not open to a pilot, a fortiori a commercial pilot, to determine which rules ought to be obeyed. And it is not open to a pilot to ignore the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding performance. …”

In Quadrio the Tribunal [at 69] stated: “In determining whether [the applicant] is a fit and proper person we are not concerned to enquire into [the applicant’s] competence. On the evidence it would appear that [the applicant] is a technically competent pilot.”

The Tribunal found there, as does the Tribunal in this matter, that what is most important is the applicant’s attitude to compliance with the civil aviation regulatory regime and severely punished Quadrio because he would not make any admissions of guilt.

In fact, the Quadrio case was misquoted by the AAT in the Ekinci findings and that continues with Pantovic.

In fact:

A. casa never identified the pilot who actually flew – Quadrio denies he was the pilot of the “offending flight” Exhibit “E”;

B. casa never established that the helicopter was flown outside normal operating standards [Robinson did not concur with casa’s view, neither did their expert witness at the Criminal charges that CDPP declined to prosecute in Cairns]


C. casa did not provide all the evidence in order that Quadrio could defend himself properly, even down to the YouTube video which was not provided in high definition;

D. Nor were all the subpoenas met in full;

E.or the true identity of the prime witness and his background and breaking into John’s employers premises prior to the #casa action and initial interview.

At least Jack Pantovic is still able to earn an income, whereas John Quadrio cannot and was never given a proper chance to do that.

That #casa can continue to manipulate the truth in order to get a conviction is lamentable.

Yes, Jack has erred in his actions, but the comparison [see video above] with Quadrio and Jones certainly leaves a serious doubt as to the severity of the relevant alleged offences.

More to follow

The AAT hearings findings:

Pantovic and Civil Aviation Safety Authority [2015] AATA 992 (18 December 2015)

Press clippings from Courier Mail, Cairns Post and Townsville Bulletin today [24th December 2015]:

Pantovic clippings 24th December 2015


Pantovic 1


Pantovic 2


Pantovic 3


Pantovic 4

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