• ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell. (Steve Hitchen)
    ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell. (Steve Hitchen)

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) this week has clarified when they do and don't get involved in recreational accident investigations.

A statement given to Australian Flying was prompted by the release of an investigation report into the loss of a propeller off a Jabiru that resulted in no injuries and little damage, and news that the ATSB would not investigate a mid-air collision at Kybong near Gympie that cost two lives.

Aviation commentators have queried the apparent inconsistency especially after the ATSB denied Recreational Aviation Australia's request for an investigation into the Kybong crash, which was between an RAAus-registered powered aeroplane and a glider.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell told Australian Flying the decisions were in line with the ATSB's normal procedures.

“We understand the perceived inconsistency regarding the ATSB’s response to these occurrences, and I welcome this opportunity to clarify these decisions, which are in line with our Ministerial Statement of Expectations," he said.

“The propeller loss occurrence related to the manufacture, design and/or maintenance of the aircraft itself. As Australia is the state of design and state of manufacture for the Jabiru aircraft, and there are aircraft of the same type on the VH register, and operating overseas, the ATSB investigated the occurrence to determine if there were broader lessons for the aircraft type.

“In contrast, the Kybong mid-air collision was an operational event, involving an RA-Aus registered kit plane manufactured in the Czech Republic, and a VH-registered–but unpowered–glider, which was also not designed or manufactured in Australia.

"Neither of these aircraft therefore fall under the ATSB’s standard remit for investigation.

"The ATSB would only investigate accidents such the Kybong mid-air collision on an exception basis, as its resources permit, where conducting such an investigation has the potential to highlight wider safety issues."

Maxine Milera, acting CEO of RAAus, told members that the investigation into the Gympie crash would instead be down to the Queensland Police despite the organisation's direct approach to the ATSB.

"On Thursday I spoke to the ATSB Chief Commissioner to convey that RAAus would like the ATSB to independently investigate the accident, however, I was informed they would not." Milera wrote in a communique to members on 12 November.

"The Queensland Police will therefore conduct the investigation in order to provide information to the Queensland Coroner. RAAus will continue to support the Queensland Police with their investigation."

Angus Mitchell said that the ATSB would support recreational accident investigations conducted by sport aviation bodies when possible.

“Sport aviation bodies conduct their own investigations into accidents involving their members' aircraft. Where requested and as resourcing permits, the ATSB may assist sport and recreation aviation organisations' investigations through providing technical assistance, such as a metallurgical examination of aircraft components or data recovery.

“Investigator representatives from recreational aviation organisations are also able to attend the ATSB’s transport safety investigator graduate certificate course, which is delivered jointly by the ATSB and RMIT University.

“The ATSB continues to empathise with the next of kin who have lost loved ones in this accident and are seeking answers as to how the accident occurred.”

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