Airline told off for poor safety standards

Last updated 11:59 27/03/2014
Great Barrier Airlines
Alyce Rowe

NOSE DOWN: The Great Barrier Airlines plane lies in a garden next to the Pauanui Airstrip.

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New Zealand's Great Barrier Airlines has been told to improve safety standards, after lapses have been found as the cause of another crash.

In a report published today, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) found the airline fell short on several safety standards, despite previous warnings.

In October 2011, a plane bound for Great Barrier Island, with 13 on board, overshot the airstrip at Pauanui and crashed through a safety fence.

The pilot applied full power for takeoff, but when the Trislander aircraft did not lift, she slammed on its brakes.

The plane crashed through the wooden fence at the end of the runway, and stopped in a garden just three metres short of a public footpath.

No one was injured, and damage to the aircraft was minor.

TAIC found the main reasons for the crash were that the aeroplane's centre of gravity (balance) was "significantly outside the permissible limits",  and the aeroplane was too heavy for the runway length.

The report also found the pilot's technique had contributed to the crash, and overall standards of pilot training and supervision were below par.  

It said the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) expressed recurring concerns for the New Zealand airline for the three years leading up to the crash. However, any response to those concerns had been "largely ineffective".

TAIC recommended pilots know the weight and balance of their aircraft before every flight, and ensure both remain within limits. Standard weights should only be used if they are representative of actual passenger weights.

"It takes more than just good written policies and procedures to achieve an acceptable level of flight safety. Managers need to lead by example and ensure that pilots actually follow the procedures," the report said.

The airline has suffered a number of failures in recent years.

In 2012 a Trislander aircraft caught fire while preparing to take off from Auckland airport. No one was injured in the fire, which was thought to have been caused when a brake jammed on one of the plane's wheels.

Two incidents occurred in 2009. In July, a plane had to make an emergency landing after one of the propellers tore into the engine.

Later that year, a plane crashed shortly after take-off. The pilot suffered leg injuries and a passenger suffered a broken pelvis and broken rib.

In 1998 the CAA grounded the airline after four collisions or accidents in quick succession.

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