Midair crash was 'waiting to happen'

Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013

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A former Civil Aviation Authority safety investigation manager believes a midair collision between a helicopter and a small plane over Paraparaumu was an accident waiting to happen.

Peter Kirker, who now works for international aerospace company Lockheed Martin, was giving evidence at the inquest into the crash that killed teenage Cessna pilot Bevan Hook way, 17, examiner David Fielding, 30, and helicopter pilot James Taylor, 19.

Mr Taylor was doing a final test flight with Mr Fielding, when they collided with Mr Hookway's plane on February 17, 2008. Mr Hookway was performing what is called a joining procedure.

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

Mr Kirker criticised the CAA for knowing about the risk of such a manoeuvre since 1996 but doing nothing about it. "It is unacceptable that CAA sat on their hands over this."

He said the calculations in reports to Wellington coroner Ian Smith were not quite correct about air speed at the time of the crash, and he felt the pilots had little chance to avoid each other.

He believed the pilots were not to blame and were mostly probably not able to see each other.

He called it an accident waiting to happen. "The risk was unaddressed for years."

Mr Kirker left CAA in December 2011. He was questioned by CAA lawyer Duncan Ferrier about his expertise, despite Mr Ferrier acknowledging he had worked for CAA for some years.

The inquest is expected to finish today.

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- The Dominion Post

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