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

VIDEO: Langley soapbox derby draws more competitors

41st annual Soap Box Derby put on by the Langley Evangelical Free Church

Crime Briefs: Stolen church tent, loan fraud and missing chipper

Langley RCMP release photos of suspects and stolen goods

Langley Blaze alum makes MLB debut

‘I have been waiting my whole life for this’ says Maple Ridge’s Tyler O’Neill

It’s going to be a furry tail foot race Sunday, April 29

Langley animal shelter hosts walk/run at Derby Reach Park

Blaze split with A’s in Kelowna

Langley 18U team goes 2-2 to open season despite missing five key players to Team Canada obligations

UPDATED: 9 killed, 16 injured after van hits pedestrians in Toronto

Toronto police say nine people have died and 16 are injured

Vancouver to rake in $30 million in empty homes tax in first year

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, and was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate

B.C.’s snowpack continues to increase, melting delayed

River Forecast Centre official says sudden melting further into the season could cause flooding

Another B.C. First Nation voices support for Kinder Morgan pipeline

Simpcw First Nation claims people living on one-third of pipeline route support the project

Protesters argue both sides of B.C.’s SOGI curriculum at teachers’ union office

The sexual orientation and gender identity program was launched as a pilot project last year

Prankster broadcasts fake nuclear threat in Winnipeg

The audio recording on Sunday warned of a nuclear attack against Canada and the United States

ICBC reform aims to slow rising car insurance costs

‘Pain and suffering’ payouts to be capped, major injury limit to double

Saskatchewan introduces law to allow control of oil, gas exports

The Prairie province has already said it is supporting Alberta in a dispute with B.C. over the Trans Mountain pipeline

Wood chipper stolen

Truck recovered in Aldergrove but wood chipper wasn’t found

Most Read