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

Auckland traffic snub 'shocking'

Traffic frustrations heading to Auckland Airport peaked in 2016 when congestion was likened to that of a third world country.

Business leaders angry the main route to Auckland airport is not included in major election transport plan.

Artist blends politics into painting

The 2017 Iris Fisher Scholarship winner Christina Pataialii creates large-scale canvas paintings and delves into social ...

The 2017 Iris Fisher Scholarship winner Christina Pataialii illustrates the influences on her Samoan-New Zealand identity.

Locals win Dragonboat Regatta

The team from Robinson Asphalts was the winner of the fifth annual Tutukaka Dragonboat  Regatta.

Dragon boat racing in miserable conditions entertained the crowd at Tutukaka.

Ditch Easter ban Auckland told

Auckland's set to make a decision on Easter trade hours on Thursday.

Auckland councillors are set to keep shops shut over Easter, ignoring calls to overhaul trading laws.

Wellington

Sports fields a mudbath video

A particularly wet winter has left Grenada North Park almost unusable.

There are some sports fields at Wellington's Grenada North park where the ground is so soggy that children can barely run, let alone kick a ball.

Fatal scooter crash

Aotaki St in Otaki.

Mobility scooter and car crash, leaving a 91-year-old man dead.

Quarry's rocky ground

A digger working the existing pit at Kiwi Point quarry, Ngauranga Gorge.

Wellington's choice: a new scar on landscape, or running out of building material.

Emergency staffing shortage

The 4.4 magnitude earthquake at 11.58pm on Tuesday was widely felt in eastern Marlborough and the Wellington region

Wellington co-ordination centre could have a problem if there was a disaster tomorrow.

Canterbury

New bar ends cocktail drought

Owner Anita Alder's love for a good cocktail is the driving force behind the drinks menu.

There's a new bar and eatery in Lincoln and BBQ Brazil reopens under new management.

Arena partners wanted

Christchurch's proposed multi-use arena could have a steel roof and a retractable turf.

Christchurch mayor says more work needed to decide how stadium would be paid for.

Five-month-old baby dies

Police are investigating the death of a five-month-old baby in Christchurch on Wednesday morning.

Police probe death of Christchurch baby – the second infant to die in the city this week.

Farmer used violence, extra force

The tails of an unknown number of cows were broken by a Temuka farmer, who didn't obtain any medical help to treat their ...

Farmer broke cows' tails, punched them and struck them with a pipe, a court has heard.

Waikato

A 'world class' Garden Place video

Two shared lanes and car parks are being proposed for Hamilton's Garden Place.

Bold plan focuses on events and making city square family friendly.

Car and tanker collide

Athenree Gorge runs between Waihi Beach and Waihi township, north of Tauranga.

One dead and State Highway 2 closed after collision between car and petrol tanker in Bay of Plenty.

10 slips block Hamilton paths

Most of the slips came to Hamilton City Council's attention after wild weather washed over in March and April, 2017 ...

Two of them 'could be from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix'.

Probe into pet wallaby report

Wallabies are pests not pets, says the Waikato Regional Council (file pic).

There's nothing concrete yet but the regional council is clear - pests as pets is a big no no.

Taranaki

NZ fails to clinch Irish beauty pageant

Rose from New Zealand, Niamh O'Sullivan, with Rose Bud Molly at the Rose of Tralee competition in Ireland.

Taranaki's Niamh O'Sullivan was chosen to represent the country in the International Rose of Tralee Festival.

Fatal car accident

A person had died after a medical event while driving in Okaiawa, South Taranaki.

A person has died after suffering a medical event while driving in South Taranaki.

Auld Mug on show

The America's Cup will be on show in New Plymouth on October 18 as part of a national tour. (File Photo)

Taranaki people are getting a chance to catch a glimpse of the America's Cup.

Finding the lost and disorientated

Taranaki LandSAR volunteer trainees, Andrew Brooker, left, and Fleur Lonsdale study a topo map of Pukeiti Gardens

Getting hauled out of bed late at night to find a lost tramper doesn't worry search and rescue volunteer trainees.

Manawatu

Block to road upgrade cleared

22082017 Photo: MURRAY WILSON/STUFF	
James Line, Kelvin Grove, Palmerston North

Palmerston North's James Line has been cleared for an urban makeover.

Live: Labour talks houses

Labour making housing announcement as the Government prepares to open the books.

Labour unveils first housing plan as the Government prepares to open the books.

Pond house problems

Jillian Sinclair is struggling to find a house suitable for her special needs children, and fears she'll have to leave ...

She won a Tenancy Tribunal case against property manager, but still lives there.

What's wrong with school balls video

Guests dancing the waltz at a Timaru Girls High School Ball.

Zain​ Collins couldn't go to the school ball if he didn't have a date. Does this signal a wider issue with school balls in 2017?

Nelson

Couple's six-figure trawler lie

Tyler Stewart Stokes, 20, and Monique Carlaw, 22, earlier admitted lying to Talley's Fisheries about a car crash they ...

The couple lied about a tragedy to divert a fishing trawler - costing Talley's $173,000.

Bylaw up for debate video

The city amenity bylaw was prompted by problems created by the ongoing protest by Lewis Stanton, aka Hone Ma Heke, on ...

Nelson city councillors are set to make a call today over the city amenity bylaw.

Serious crash on State Highway 6

Accident on SH6 near Rai Valley

Nelson-Marlborough route closed to traffic as helicopter airlifts patient to hospital.

'Propaganda' claim in dam debate

Tasman district councillor Dean McNamara has written a colourful blog in response to a special edition of a council ...

First time councillor's blog post accuses TDC of "outright lies" to sell Waimea Dam.

Marlborough

Bridges beamed in

The concept design of the Irongate bridge on State Highway 1.

Design plans show new-look coastal highway, complete with bridges and seawalls.

Serious crash on SH6

Accident on SH6 near Rai Valley

A person is injured after a serious crash between Blenheim and Nelson.

First time for Arbuckle

Blenheim councillor Jamie Arbuckle hopes his public profile will help snap up more votes for New Zealand First.

The outspoken Blenheim councillor is taking the leap to national politics with his "idol" Winston Peters.

Full day's detour

Traffic takes to the $4.3 million intersection last week.

Spring Creek roundabout entrance closes for final piece of construction.

South Canterbury

Cancer concern prompts book

Terrance Page has authored a book which he's giving away to help raise awareness about healthy eating in children.

Timaru man Terrance Page is determined to reduce the rate of child cancer in New Zealand.

Disease at third farm

Cows on an a farm near Oamaru look likely to have been infected with the Mycoplasma bovis disease from a Van Leeuwen ...

Cow disease Mycoplasma bovis spreads to a third farm, this one in Oamaru.

Man found in canal

Missing Twizel man David Fountain has been found dead.

Twizel man David Fountain has been remembered as an "honest, thoughtful" man.

Timaru girl in redhead project

Danni Mitchell-Saunders, 4, has been included in a project celebrating redheads.

A Timaru 4-year-old's red hair has been included in a national photography project.

Otago

Coroner demands quad bike action

Coroner Brigitte Windley says it is "imperative" action is taken to reduce the number of deaths and injuries involving ...

The ''persistent concern'' over quad bike deaths has prompted a coroner to issue recommendations to improve safety.

Cadbury sales holding up video

Cadbury's owner has been keeping an eye on its popularity with Kiwis after confirming it's shutting its southern factory.

Cadbury's owner has been keeping an eye on its popularity with Kiwis after news it will shut its southern factory.

Kids win playground poo war

Tarras School pupils celebrate the new public toilet that is up and running outside the school. Children petitioned the ...

Poosistance has paid off for a Central Otago school whose grounds were being used as a toilet by tourists.

Milton burial project 'a work in progress'

A coffin handle from the St John's Burial Ground exhumation project.

Milton burial bones yet to reveal pioneers' life and death stories.

Southland

Polyfest hits new heights video

Members of the Otatara Kindy on stage at Polyfest 2017

''They like the sense of whanau, they feel like they are a part of something."

Hospitality at the heart of the south

Ronald McDonald Family Room supervisor Helen Walker and volunteer Susan Stenton at the Ronald McDonald House ...

Southland's inaugural Purple Work Shirt Day is raising funds for Ronald McDonald House.

'Stubbornness' gets Grieve home

Dwight Grieve from Fiordland leads Jack McNaughton and Buddy Small in the early stages of the Southland championships in ...

Stubbornness and a want to succeed have helped Dwight Grieve claim the Southland Road Championship title in Te Anau on Saturday.

Quick thinking prevents injury

Fire crews attend a house fire on Dipton street, Invercargill, on Sunday afternoon.

An Invercargill family had a close shave following a house fire in Kingswell.

Ad Feedback