Anzac crash flight details argued

The Iroquois crew involved in the fatal 2010 Anzac Day crash was initially ordered to travel the previous day, Palmerston North MP  Iain Lees-Galloway told Parliament.

However, Defence Minister Dr Jonathon Coleman queried whether Mr Lees-Galloway had his facts straight.

Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, 33, Flying Officer Dan Gregory, 28, and Corporal Ben Carson, 25, died after crashing during a flight from Ohakea for a flypast of Wellington Anzac Day commemorations.

Details of a leaked crash analysis assessment report were released yesterday, leading to several questions from Mr Lees-Galloway to the defence minister in Parliament.

After asking several questions about the contents of the report and how the decision to fly down on the morning of Anzac Day had contributed to the crash, Mr Lees-Galloway asked:

‘‘Is he aware that the operational order for Anzac Day flypasts ordered that 3 Squadron pre-position aircraft on the day before Anzac Day in order to mitigate both noise abatement regulations and the risk of poor weather, and does he know why this order was not followed?’’

Based at Ohakea, 3 Squadron is the group to which  helicopter crews belong in the air force.

Dr Coleman took two attempts to answer the question.

First, he queried the motives of Mr Lees-Galloway in asking the question and then said the decision not to pre-position the aircraft was not a cause of the accident.

Speaker Lockwood Smith interrupted both times, saying it was ‘‘a reasonable question’’, though he expected the minister would not necessarily know the answer as it was an operational matter.

Dr Coleman then gave an answer that the Speaker found reasonable.

‘‘I don’t agree with the assertion he’s putting to the House and I would have to check that... I’m not too certain he’s got his facts correct.’’

Mr Lees-Galloway said yesterday that pressure by the Government on the Defence Force to save money had contributed to the decision to fly to Wellington that morning and thus to the crash.

Dr Coleman, in one answer in Parliament, said Labour had to look at its own spending on defence during its last tenure in government.

In another answer, he told Mr Lees-Galloway to focus on the crash causes instead of trying to ‘‘cause a cheap beat-up out of this’’.

The crash analysis assessment report said the crash would not have occurred if the flight had taken place the day before.

It reads: ‘‘The need to minimise accommodation costs incurred by 3 Squadron due to pressure on the accommodation budget was recognised and contributed to the... decision [not to fly the day before].’’

The Defence Force uses the Amora Hotel in Wellington, which this week had rooms available for $149 each.

The report cited training problems with instrument flying and night-vision goggles.

It found there were no instructor manuals or guides because of ‘‘resourcing’’ issues.

This was ‘‘common with most RNZAF flying units’’.


Manawatu Standard