In this Jan. 4, 2018, photo provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), wreckage of a seaplane is lifted from a river north of Sydney. The owner of the seaplane that crashed near Sydney during a New Year’s Eve joy flight, killing the Canadian pilot and his five British passengers, says that flight path was not authorized according to a preliminary report released Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. (ATSB via AP)

Route of seaplane that left B.C. man, 5 others dead wasn’t authorized: report

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff as it was climbing for a flight south to Sydney

The owner of a seaplane that crashed near Sydney during a New Year’s Eve joy flight, killing a B.C. pilot and his five British passengers, said Wednesday that flight path was not authorized and the pilot’s final manoeuvr was inexplicable.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau on Wednesday released a preliminary report on its investigation into the cause of the crash into the Hawkesbury River. It rules out a bird strike, contaminated fuel and the plane breaking up in flight as possibilities, and while it does not suggest any likely cause of the crash it does say the flight path is part of the ongoing investigation.

Killed were Compass Group chief executive Richard Cousins, 58, his fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, her 11-year-old daughter Heather Bowden-Page and his two sons William, 25, and Edward, 23, along with experienced pilot Gareth Morgan, 44 from North Vancouver.

Sydney Seaplanes chief executive Aaron Shaw said in response to the report that its key question was why the plane was flying in a bay surrounded by steep terrain that had no exit.

“It is not a route we authorize in our Landing and Take Off Area Register and the plane simply should not have been where it was,” Shaw said in a statement.

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff as it was climbing for a flight south to Sydney following a restaurant lunch.

The report cites eyewitnesses saying the plane suddenly entered a steep right turn before the nose dropped. The plane hit the water in a near-vertical dive, the report said.

Shaw questioned why a pilot with more than 10,000 hours of flying experience would enter an 80-to-90-degree bank angle turn, as witnesses described in the report.

“A turn of this nature at low altitude by a pilot with Gareth’s skills, experience and intimate knowledge of the location is totally inexplicable,” Shaw said.

Crash investigators later likened the flight path to a motorist turning into a dead-end street instead of on to a freeway, and said the plane would have struggled to climb above the bay’s terrain.

“We don’t have a preferred theory at this stage as to why he went off course,” the bureau’s executive director Nat Nagy told journalists after the report was released.

“What we are trying to ascertain is whether this was part of his normal operation to have gone up there. The information we have indicates that it is not,” Nagy added.

The de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver was built in 1963 and had an earlier fatal crash in 1996 while operating as a crop duster in rural Australia. That investigation found that the pilot likely stalled the plane, which was laden with a full tank of fuel and more than a ton of fertilizer in turbulent wind conditions.

The Transport Safety Board of Canada in September recommended that Canada make stall warning systems compulsory for Beaver planes after six people died during a sightseeing flight over Quebec in 2015.

The Australian report said the investigation will consider the issue of stall warning systems. The plane that crashed on Dec. 31 was not equipped with such a device, which are not compulsory in Australia. The plane was also not required to carry cockpit voice or flight data recorders, widely known as black boxes.

Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

Just Posted

UPDATED: Emergency crews rescue pregnant woman from Mount Finlayson

Emergency crews from Langford and Metchosin responding

Well-used bathing service receives much-needed upgrade

Bathing program expands room on Goldstream Avenue

Grizzlies make an impact in the community

The team travels to elementary and middle schools to spend time with the students

Victoria police pay special attention to domestic violence

Workshop for officers and others shows how domestic abuse trauma impacts for a long time

Thrilling finish to Royals weekend in Victoria

WHL club hosts Portland for a pair this Friday and Saturday at Save-On Centre

Oak Bay skaters bound for BC Games in Kamloops

Saanich resident aims for second gold

Lottery will help save children’s lives

Each ticket gets you a chance to win a lot of money, while helping a lot of kids

B.C. RCMP officer officially cleared in car wash shooting incident

A report found the Salmon Arm officer fired 14 bullets at the man’s truck

Wounded Warrior Run stops in Port McNeill

For Jacqueline Zweng, the Wounded Warrior Run is a personal matter.

Interest in Canadian Armed Forces remains high

Canada seeks about 5,000 recruits each year for its regular forces of about 68,000

Rules reviewed to keep drug money out of B.C. real estate

Investigator looking at loans as well as casinos, David Eby says

Tahsis mayor Jude Schooner succumbs to sudden heart attack

Flags are flying at half mast in the Village of Tahsis after… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C. deer caught obeying traffic signs

A herd of deer in Fernie, B.C. is getting attention online after stopping for a stop sign

Petition wants fundraiser dropped for family of man cleared in Boushie’s death

Group says GoFundMe is profiting from the young Indigenous man’s death

Most Read