Pilots slam CAA over red-flagged inspector who investigated fatal helicopter crash

Civil Aviation Authority flight operations inspector Paul Jones conducted safety checks and inquiries all over New ...
SUPPLIED

Civil Aviation Authority flight operations inspector Paul Jones conducted safety checks and inquiries all over New Zealand, including an investigation into the 2015 Fox Glacier crash that killed seven people.

A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) inspector who overstated his CV had his performance in investigating one of the country's worst fatal helicopter crashes red-flagged in internal emails.

As a flight operations inspector Paul Mitchell Jones conducted safety checks and inquiries all over the country, including an investigation into the 2015 Fox Glacier crash that killed seven people.

A Stuff inquiry has found Jones was a controversial figure within the aviation industry and attracted serious concerns about his work from superiors.

Helicopter pilot Mitch Gameren died alongside six tourists in the glacier crash in November 2015.
SUPPLIED

Helicopter pilot Mitch Gameren died alongside six tourists in the glacier crash in November 2015.

Stuff recently reported Jones had claimed on his CV that he had two advanced fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft qualifications, Airline Transport Pilot Licences (ATPLs), when he had neither.

READ MORE:
CAA inspector not as qualified as claimed
Agonising wait for Fox Glacier crash families
Tributes flow for pilot killed in Fox Glacier crash

The CAA has refused to order an inquiry into his work and has said it was happy with his performance despite concern expressed in its own emails obtained by Stuff.

Leang Sovannmony, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29, of Australia, died in the crash.
SUPPLIED

Leang Sovannmony, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29, of Australia, died in the crash.

One of Jones' biggest jobs was to investigate the company involved in the glacier crash, on which he and two others came up with eight findings – including about training and record keeping.

The Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil, known as the Squirrel, belonged to Alpine Adventures, which now says some of Jones' findings were "completely wrong".

The November 2015 crash killed local 28-year-old pilot Mitch Gameren and four British and two Australian tourists.

British tourists Andrew Virco and Katharine Walker were killed in the glacier crash.
FACEBOOK

British tourists Andrew Virco and Katharine Walker were killed in the glacier crash.

Seven months after the crash the CAA suspended the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) of Alpine Adventures' owner James Scott, forcing him to ground his fleet of 15 helicopters.

Ad Feedback

Questions were now being raised about Jones' competence to perform his duties while he was at the CAA.

A CAA email obtained by Stuff showed Jones' boss Steve Kern was concerned over breaches of CAA record-keeping protocols by Jones and others in regard to the glacier crash investigation.

Nigel and Cynthia Charlton, who died in the helicopter crash.
FACEBOOK

Nigel and Cynthia Charlton, who died in the helicopter crash.

The email showed that when Kern went into the CAA computer system in May 2016, much of the material he expected to find supporting the crash findings was missing or in the wrong place.

"For visits of this importance I was expecting to see some reasonable notes and evidence of what you did, who you talked to, what you found, any actions agreed etc."

The email, to Jones and the other investigators, mentioned visits to Scott's home and Fox Glacier: "Where are both of your notes from the site visit capturing the detail?"

The CAA has said management routinely checked up on information gathered from auditing and surveillance activities.

"Staff are expected to enter surveillance information into our database. Managers monitor this and follow up with staff or teams should information be incomplete or lacking."

The CAA would not comment specifically on Kern's email.

The General Aviation Advocacy Group of New Zealand (GAA), which represents 2000 aviation staff, slammed the CAA's "abject" handling of the Jones affair.

The GAA has written to the CAA demanding answers to a series of questions arising from Jones' employment from 2014 to early this year and drawing parallels to how an engineer would be treated.

"If a licensed engineer used fraudulent qualifications to release an aircraft to service, then all aircraft and/or components that this engineer had touched should have been subject to a rigorous investigation," the letter said.

The GAA has accused both the CAA and Minister of Transport Simon Bridges of brushing off the problem.

"It smacks of a 'trust us – we know what we are doing' attitude unbecoming of a responsible and communicative authority."

According to a flight operations inspector job description dated January 2017, the ATPL or equivalent is an essential prerequisite.

But CAA spokesman Mike Richards said the job description was a mistake and flight inspectors did not need the qualifications, which were the highest licences pilots could earn in New Zealand.

Scott said he was not surprised when he found out Jones was not qualified for the position, describing his behaviour during the investigation as "unusual".

"There was something about him that we couldn't figure out, [it] didn't seem right," he said.

"He told us he had flown here, there and everywhere. Now it makes sense. When I disputed the things he was trying to tell me, he completely dismissed them. They should never have employed him in the first place."

Stuff has spoken to half a dozen pilots who found Jones' safety audits unusual.

Owen Jones, unrelated to Paul Jones, was the quality assurance manager for Heliworx Waikato in 2015 when the inspector came to do an audit.

The manager described Jones' behaviour as aggressive and accusatory and complained to the CAA.

The CAA had to conduct another audit with a different inspector.

ICAA's Richards said Jones' behaviour could be explained and the CAA was aware of only a small number of complaints.

Jones had a difficult relationship with a small number of operators, but an effective regulator could spark tensions, he said.

In a statement, Richards mentioned Jones did not claim to have the ATPL qualifications when he started working for the CAA in 2014 and added the licences when applying for another CAA position in 2016.

"That version of his CV had added Air Transport Pilot's Licence (Aeroplane) and Air Transport Pilot's Licence (Helicopter) to the section of his CV headed 'Education and Qualifications'."

That contradicts a copy of Jones' CV cited before a court, dated 2014, which show the claimed ATPL qualifications.

Richards said the CAA would not be changing any of the decisions it had made with Alpine Adventures since Jones' glacier crash investigation.

Jones would not comment on the issue and referred all inquiries to the CAA.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) is investigating the cause of the helicopter crash. The TAIC uses CAA information for its inquiries. TAIC's findings may not be released until next year. 

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Can micronutrients help with anxiety?

Julia Rucklidge's team is currently conducting a trial to see if micronutrients can improve depression and anxiety ...

One in 10 adults in the developed world now takes an antidepressant.

Us Two: The Mad Butcher and Don Graham

Sir Peter Leitch, left, and Don Graham.

'You know the saying, "He'd give you the shirt off his back?" I've actually seen him do that.'

Lucy Hone: Stress for success

Having a Personal Stress Plan may just be the difference between life and death, writes Dr Lucy Hone.

Not all stress is bad - if you can learn how to handle it.

'Kiwi culture' turns deadly video

Making a summer splash at locations such as the Raglan footbridge is seen as a Kiwi tradition but the consequences can ...

Four have suffered the same life-changing injury diving off a wharf; another was killed jumping from a bridge. Now, councils are taking action.

Wellington

Wellington loses Si and Gary show

Wellingtonians won't hear Si & Gary on their breakfast show anymore.

But they'll get something more local in return - Polly and Grant.

Man caught with gun

A man was arrested after police found a loaded shotgun in a car. (FILE PHOTO)

Gang tension is believed to be be behind the arrest of a man carrying a loaded shotgun in Masterton.

How to stop begging? video

Marcus Pohio is homeless and regularly begs on Courtenay Place, in Wellington.

The only thing that will get Marcus Pohio off the street is death. But is public generosity speeding that up?

Ex-British Cars House for sale

The building features a tiled lobby and a vintage cage lift.

1920s character building with penthouse apartment and rooftop on the market.

Canterbury

Photos: Christchurch floods

Heathcote River flooding near Sloane Terrace.

The Heathcote River has burst its banks and flooded southern parts of the city.

Live: Southern deluge 

The rain may have eased but parts of Canterbury and Otago are still underwater.

State of emergencies declared in several areas as flood waters force scores of evacuations.

State of emergency in Chch

Christchurch's Heathcote River was in flood on Saturday morning.

Residents evacuated in boats as persistent rain floods the Heathcote River, closing roads and inundating properties.

Heathcote residents trapped

Waimea Terrace resident Tarapreet Singh, 25.

The kitchen sink is brimming with water and the nearly overflowing toilet is unflushable.

Waikato

Historic cottage illegally destroyed

This Huntly coal-mining cottage in Tregoweth Street was torn down illegally by its owner, Kevin David Lynch, in January 2016.

The owner was fined $10,000 after he bulldozed the late Victorian coal miner's cottage.

Body in bale ruling

The body was found at OJI Fibre Solutions and FullCircle Recycling on June 28 in Frankton's Pukeko Street.

If it hadn't been raining, Daniel Bindner might not have crawled into a cardboard recycling cage.

Crash closes SH1

Police are at the scene of a crash on SH1 north of Turangi which has blocked the road.

Contractors working to clear State Highway 1 north of Turangi after a truck rolls.

Quad bike safety an attitude thing

Trauma data reveals a huge peak in quad bike injuries among the 55-to-65 age group.

Wintec students look to solve the problem of quad bike accidents.

Taranaki

Terrier looking for a friend

210717 News Photo. SIMON O'CONNOR/STUFF
Katie Tahere's dog Mocha is looking for a walking buddy after her dog Coco ...

Mocha is looking for a new walking companion after losing her best friend.

Farewells not the focus

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says the team aren't focusing on rallying together to try and send the departees out on a high.

Any game now could be the last for several stalwarts, but the Chiefs aren't using departures as motivation.

Building gets new roof

The New Plymouth District Council decided in January to use shingles instead of corrugated iron on the Gables under ...

The Gables Gallery's shiny new roof looks the part, thanks to 20,000 new shingles

From reporter to magical nanny

Not quite as graceful as Mary Poppins, but reporter Tara Shaskey gets a first-hand lesson on the production's flying stunts.

Mary Poppins is just a little bit magical. And that doesn't come easy or cheap.

Manawatu

Fetch not always a fun game

Chasing sticks can be a dangerous game, write vet Malcolm Anderson.

OPINION: Vet Malcolm Anderson offers some words of advice about the dangers of playing fetch.

No random drug tests 

Only following a police shooting do officers undergo drug and alcohol testing. (File photo).

Police are only given drug and alcohol testing if they fire a gun during an incident.

Millions spent fixing police cars

A police car comes to a final halt after crashing through a Hamilton property in June.

More than $8 million has been spent fixing damaged police cars in the past three years, with costs peaking in 2016.

Moon landing celebrated 

Buzz Aldrin stands on the Moon.

MEMORY LANE: Do you remember the first Moon landing?

Nelson

Nelson too good for Wanderers

22072017 NEWS PHOTO MARTIN DE RUYTER/ STUFF

Nelson players and support staff after winning the  Nelson Bays Division 1 ...

Nelson turn it on to hammer Wanderers in Nelson Bays club rugby final. 

Buzz about beekeeping

05062015 News Photo: Marion van Dijk / Fairfax NZ.

Urban beekeeper Nigel Costley with one of his beehives in the ...

Nelsonians keen to learn more about keeping bees can do so in a short course through the Nelson Environment Centre.

Trespass case win

Lawyer John Fitchett has won a trespass case against Nelson College.

Lawyer wins case against Nelson College board meetings, but judge unimpressed.

Dancers put their best foot forward

Lillian Southward performs in the Jazz Solo section at the Nelson Performing Arts Competitions 83rd Annual Festival at ...

 Toes were on point at the performing arts competition held over the weekend.

Marlborough

All hands on deck

John's Kitchen supervisor Richard McDonald likes the idea that food can be an expression of care.

Blenheim charity kitchen takes on new staff to cope with high workload.

Team turned around

The MBC Falcons rugby team had a frustrating day on Friday.

MBC First XV rugby team spent around 14 hours in a bus yesterday, then never even got to pull their boots on.

The next big quake

The Adelphi Hotel, in Kaikoura, was pulled down due to earthquake damage.

It's impossible to say when an earthquake is going to strike. But the predictable patterns of aftershocks can help.

Exploring Africa

The Hansby family at Victoria Falls, from left, Luke Hansby, Fleur Hansby, Nick Hansby and Sam Hansby.

When you plan your trip to Africa, the animals and environment are expected to be the main attraction.

South Canterbury

Power crews tackle cuts

A firefighter, from the Washdyke station, and a Netcon worker tackle a burning power pole on the Pleasant Point Highway ...

Pleasant Point residents urged to restrict power use as crews work to restore supply.

Ready, set...chomp video

Randy Santel tackles the Gotham burger challenge at the Central Cafe in Geraldine.

US competitive eater polishes off NZ's largest burger in under 10 mins.

Mackenzie blanketed 

Heavy snow is falling in Tekapo.

Snow is still falling in the Mackenzie after a dumping overnight.

Horses scramble to safety

A large tree swept past as the horses huddled for safety.

Horses clung together to dodge tree and debris sweeping towards them in raging flood.

Southland

Stewart Island heritage gets $1m

An artist's impression of the Rakiura Heritage Centre. The centre has received, over $1 million in Government funding to ...

The Government is to commit $1.08m to the Rakiura Heritage Centre Trust.

Post-funeral brawl

Police and ambulance were alerted to the incident, but were not eventually required.

A post-funeral gathering in Bluff on Thursday night ended with blood, broken glass and a visit from the police.

Irrigation scheme 'a win-win'

Dairy Creek Ltd director Tim O'Sullivan, Pioneer Energy chief executive Fraser Jonker and Pioneer Energy project manager ...

A $10m irrigation scheme near Alexandra, Central Otago, is going to deliver water to about 1800 hectares of barren land.

Gecko stolen from visitor centre

The Marlborough green gecko that was stolen from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau.

An at risk gecko has been stolen from the DoC visitor centre in Fiordland.

Ad Feedback