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Inquest hears of pilot's lack of experience prior crash

CRASH SCENE: Rescue workers at the scene where a AS350 crash 150 metres below a landing area on top of Double Mountain South in Shoalwater Military Training Area on September 8, 2011. .
CRASH SCENE: Rescue workers at the scene where a AS350 crash 150 metres below a landing area on top of Double Mountain South in Shoalwater Military Training Area on September 8, 2011. .

THREE witnesses in an inquest about a helicopter crash in Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area in 2011 confirmed the pilot was not experienced enough in landing at high altitude.

The testimony was heard in the second day of the inquest in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court in relation to the September 8, 2011, crash.

Cairns pilot Haydn Jonathon Redfern and Canberra man Wayne Patrick Schofield, 54, were killed when the six-seater AS350 Squirrel they were travelling in plunged into dense vegetation 150 metres from a landing site on top of Double Mountain South.

 

RAAF veteran Wayne Patrick Schofield, 54, died in the crash at Shoalwater Bay on September 8, 2011.
RAAF veteran Wayne Patrick Schofield, 54, died in the crash at Shoalwater Bay on September 8, 2011. Contributed

 

A third passenger, Ken Purbrick, 53, survived the crash.

Mr Redfern was a pilot with Heli Charters Australia (HCA) which was contracted to fly Mr Schofield and Mr Purbrick, senior consultants with PS Management Consultants, around Shoalwater to checks on communication towers.

 

 

Map of the crash scene
Map of the crash scene The Morning Bulletin

 

Australian Transport Safety Bureau safety investigations manager Stuart Macleod told the court that between the operations manual for the AS350 and accounts from HCA's Lead Pilot and safety manager, the ATSB concluded the pilot tasked to this job didn't meet any of the minimum requirements.

The court heard the minimum requirements included at least 100 hours flying time in AS350 and pinnacle landing experience.

Mr Redfern only had 32 hours experience flying the AS350.

Roger Neil Humphrey, then lead pilot rotary wing for HCA at the time of the crash, said it wasn't his role to task jobs to pilots or aircraft, but it was the director and operations manager who did so.

The court heard Mr Humphrey had taken Mr Redfern on a reef flight test where he observed Redfern's competency a few weeks prior to the accident.

 

 

Cairns pilot Hadyn Jonathan Redfern died in the crash at Shoalwater Bay.
Cairns pilot Hadyn Jonathan Redfern died in the crash at Shoalwater Bay.

 

He said he was of the understanding that Redfern was only ferrying the aircraft to Yeppoon where HCA CEO Steve Spinase was to take over and carry out the job in SWB.

Mr Humphrey said it was his opinion Mr Redfern, while legally had the relevant experience to carrying out the high-altitude landing on Double Mountain South, he was not competent enough.

Casey William Mackenzie, who was the chief pilot for HCA from October 2008, said it was the chief pilot's role to task pilots and aircraft to jobs, but "Steve and Mike" would change taskings without his consent.

Mr Aberdeen raised with Mr Humphrey the accident in Papua New Guinea in May 2011 involving Mr Redfern.

Mr Aberdeen also questioned how Mr Mackenzie found out information about the series of events which led to the crash.

The court heard Mr Redfern was the pilot of an Indian-owned aircraft that had been transported to PNG and reassembled in HCA's hangers that crashed on the first day of a five-day job with five passengers on board.

The crash occurred as the aircraft approached to land at a highlands lodge.

Mr Mackenzie said initially, there was another pilot hired for this job who had experience flying the PNG terrain, but there was an issue that led to HCA not having a pilot for the job.

He said he was not aware how Mr Redfern came to be the pilot for the PNG job and recalled raising concerns that Mr Redfern was not competent enough for this job with Mr Spinase and Mike.

"PNG is an extreme environment, fairly high in altitude ... up to 12 feet above sea level," Mr Mackenzie said.

He said when an aircraft get high up in altitude the performance of the machine decreases.

"It's not something you send someone who is essentially a junior pilot (to do)," Mr Mackenzie said.

The court heard Mr Redfern later told Mr Mackenzie he had not taken into account the altitude impacts on the aircraft.

The inquest has been adjourned until tomorrow when Coroner David O'Connell is expected to deliver his findings.

Topics:  australian transport safety bureau haydyn jonathon redfern heli charters australia inquest rockhampton magistrates court shoalwater bay training area tmbcourt wayne patrick schofield


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