An aviation researcher, writer, aviation participant, pilot & agricultural researcher. Author of over 35 scientific publications world wide.


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Final Report – PelAir

The PelAir final report into Aviation:

There have been a range of very interesting articles published, together with recomendations by the Senate for Federal Police investigations into whether the TSI Act has been breached by CASA.

Government Response to the PelAir Senate Inquiry [March 20th 2014]

Senate Report:


Original media report:

Six rescued after plane ditches into sea – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Pilot ‘a hero’ for emergency ocean landing – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

 Todays Release [23rd May 2013]:

Senate Committee releases damning report into Australia’s aviation authorities – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Senate committee ATSB,CASA, Pel-Air wrap Plane Talking

ABC 7.30 Report [also has interview with McCormick and Dolan]

Norfolk Island plane crash produces blame game – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Four Corners [ABC]

Crash Landing – Four Corners

ABC – PM report

PM – Senate scathing of air safety regulators 23 05 2013


Senate Report Media Releases:

Nick Xenophon – Independent Senator for South Australia

News reports:

Damning Senate report on ATSB, CASA Pel-Air failings Plane Talking

Committee critical of transport bodies News.com

Age – Print Article Air body ‘failed’ on safety reform

Aus Aviation – Senate committee hands down poor verdict on performance of safety regulator and ATSB Australian Aviation Magazine

ProAviation – Senate report will shape safety investigation future Pro Aviation aus Flying CASA and ATSB Made Pilot Scapegoat Xenophon

Business Wall Street Journal Senate inquiry a chance to outline progress, CASA chief tells staff The Australian

Ben Sandilands:

CASA referred to Federal Police by Senate committee Plane Talking

ATSB should reopen botched Pel-Air crash report Senate says Plane Talking

ATSB chief’s testimony lacked credibility Senate Plane Talking

pprune Investigation/ reports:

Volume 1_PPrune version

Volume 2_Pprune version

Volume 3_PpruNe version

Volume 4_PpruNe version

 International Reports:

The following is a worthwhile read see link for comments by readers:

AVweb Insider

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Accidents: The Pilot as Last Defense

May 28, 2013
By Paul Bertorelli


For a number of months now, I’ve been reporting on the November 2009 Norfolk Island ditching of a Westwind jet. The Australian Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of this accident has been widely regarded as a mess, criticized equally by the Australian pilot community, the press and lately, by the country’s Senate. As we reported over the weekend, the ATSB’s report (PDF) was cited for numerous omissions related to how regulators oversaw Pel-Air, the company that owned the Westwind.

Thorough as the Senate report is, I found one phrase in it that suggests it wasn’t written by pilots. Or maybe by pilots with a different view of PIC responsibility than I have. In citing numerous deficiencies in how regulators oversaw Pel-Air, the report said these failings left the pilot “as the last line of defense against an accident.”

I found this utterly jarring and the report repeated it several times. The gist of it is this: It’s the regulations and operations specs that make flying safe, the pilot is only there if those don’t cover all exigencies or novel situations otherwise arise. It’s not quite the dog-and-autopilot concept, but it’s close. To a degree, it’s a semantical distinction, but an important one, nonetheless. To take it to an extreme, when you put on your PIC hat, you are the first thing and the only thing between you and your passengers and an accident—not instruments, not traffic boxes, neither radar nor datalink weather, GPWS, glass panels or BRS parachutes or ATC. And definitely not regulations and ops specs, although they undeniably play a critical role in safety.

Those things provide a basic structure by which to frame decisionmaking, yet they don’t help with the novel situations which are perfectly legal, but, if not entirely unsafe, are only safe with no margins worthy of the name. The Pel-Air flight fit that latter description to a T. Given the weather forecast, fuel loads and distance, it was legally dispatched to a remote island with notoriously difficult-to-forecast weather, at night, with the closest airport some 400 miles away and hopelessly beyond fuel range. There was no legal requirement for an alternate, thus one wasn’t filed or planned. The pilot had little or no dispatch support from his company and the weather reporting system was sketchy at best.

So at the outset, what the Senate calls the first line of defense—the regulations and op specs—was functionally non-existent, which is the core of the scandal here, in the Senate’s reasoning. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority knew all this because it had investigated Pel-Air in depth. Yet it scape-goated pilot error as the primary cause of the accident. The pilot was hardly blameless; you can decide for yourself how to apportion responsibility. As is the case with so much in flying, survival—or at least accident avoidance—turns on pilot instincts and skills and all the regulations and cockpit gadgets do is provide entertaining diversion and, okay, some helpful data. If all that stuff fails to keep you from extremis in the first place, you fall back on your lowest level of training and hope it’s high enough.

What informs the skill and instincts in part is knowledge of previous accidents. That’s where many regulations come from, too. It’s no exaggeration to say the rules were written in blood. Systemic safety evolves from unbiased understanding of accident causes and on this point, the ATSB dragged the entire safety edifice backwards. In blaming the pilot for the accident, it failed to account for known failings in CASA’s oversight that, in an ideal world, might have shaped or at least informed his judgment or simply flat-out prohibited the flight in equipment suited to the task only if everything went just right but profoundly inadequate if it didn’t. This kind of flawed accident investigation sows mistrust and is an absolute menace to advancing safety based on documented experience.

I suspect the Australians will have their hands full fixing this because the Senate report gives the impression that it’s a cultural shortcoming within the agencies themselves. At least the investigation into the investigation gives them a good start.

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