Witness: Speed played part in fatal air crash

04:31, Feb 28 2013

The pilots of a plane and helicopter must not have seen each other and were closing on each other at an estimated 278kmh just before a fatal midair collision over Paraparaumu in 2008, an inquest into the death of three pilots has been told.

Dr Michael Fielding, who works for the crown entity Callaghan Innovation which is responsible for science, engineering and technology, made his own calculations of the closing air speed. He has challenged the CAA report which he feels has not used correct data.

Dr Fielding, the brother of flight examiner David Fielding who died in the crash, said the CAA had thought the closing speed was 80 and 90knots while he thought it was more like 130 to 170knots, equalling going 278kmh.

He said the pilots were going at too high a speed to see each other.

The inquest is being held in Wellington into the crash which also killed Cessna pilot Bevan Hookway, 17, and helicopter pilot James Taylor, 19.

Taylor was doing a final test flight with examiner Mr Fielding, 30, when the aircraft collided on February 17, 2008.  Mr Hookway was performing what is called a joining procedure.

The men were killed when the helicopter fell into the Paraparaumu Placemakers store and the plane crashed into a residential street.

Dr Fielding was also unsure whether Mr Hookway thought the helicopter was leaving the flying pattern and what he had heard during radio transmission.

He admitted to CAA lawyer Duncan Ferrier that he had no experience with air transport accident investigation and was not a pilot.

However, he said his professional qualifications - including a PhD in mechanical engineering -- gave him a good grasp of things like physics.

The inquest is expected to end today after hearing from Alan Moselen from the CAA.

Yesterday former CAA safety investigation manager Peter Kirker also criticised the CAA report, saying the pilots were not to blame and that CAA had known the risk of the manoeuvre that was being performed since 1996 and nothing had been done.


The Dominion Post