• The accident site of VH-NBY. (ATSB)
    The accident site of VH-NBY. (ATSB)

CASA this week issued a statement denying claims made in The Australian in the wake of a fatal Robinson R44 crash in Broome in 2020.

Pilot Troy Thomas and 12-year-old Amber Millar died when the tail section separated from R44 VH-NBY shortly after take-off.

Although Thomas owned tourism company Avanova, the crash flight was a private operation.

The Australian published the text of several complaints made about Avanova and cross-hire company Helibrook, which included the inference that CASA "is conducting itself in a manner which demonstrates a systemic and belligerent disregard of legal and safety obligations."

The incidents, which include taking off in fog, deliberate low-flying and dangerous manoeuvres, were all investigated prior to the Broome crash, but in most cases no enforcement action was taken.

According to CASA, Troy Thomas was a PPL that had business interests in aviation companies, but held no regulatory approvals other than the PPL and was not an authorised safety officer at those companies, not was he licensed to fly on their behalf.

"CASA refutes the allegations published today [Tuesday 22 August] in The Australian," CASA said in a statement. "Each of the 2018 incidents was investigated and acted on by CASA, and not one of them involved Mr Thomas.

"CASA does not normally investigate the owners of aircraft involved in accidents or incidents – as many are owned under complex financial and shareholding arrangements.

"CASA was aware of only one previous incident that Mr Thomas was involved in prior to his fatal accident. That incident resulted in enforcement action being taken against Mr Thomas."

In the Broome crash, the ATSB determined that an overstress fracture occurred in the attachment lugs of the tail rotor gearbox input cartridge, although the source of the load that caused the overstress couldn't be identified.

Prior to the accident flight, two pilots had reported an unusual vibration through the helicopter's pedals, but maintenance engineers found the tail rotor was within balance limits the day before the crash and a visual inspection revealed no defects in the tail.

Despite the MRO's recommendations for a maintenance check flight, the aircraft was returned to service without that having been done.

The ATSB also found that:

  • the pilot did not have a valid flight review for the R44 helicopter type or a current medical certificate, meaning the pilot was not legally authorised to operate an R44 helicopter at the time of the accident
  • the owner of VH-NBY demonstrated acts of non-compliance with multiple aviation safety regulations, and that VH-NBY was operated in a manner that increased the risk of damage or stress to the helicopter on multiple occasions
  • There was a history of unreported accidents and incidents with the registered operator of VH‑NBY's aircraft, in both commercial and private operations, including two tail rotor strikes in different R44 helicopters, and a total hull loss of  R44 VH‑ZGY that resulted in serious injuries to a passenger.

CASA also notes that in the past financial year they canceled six civil aviation authorisations and suspended four more, and issued 106 infringement notices and 68 other notices. 

comments powered by Disqus