Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigators have completed a new survey of the crash site of Pel-Air Westwind VH-NGA.
The aircraft was ditched off Norfolk Island in 2009 after running low on fuel. The original investigation report became the subject of a senate inquiry in 2013, after which Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss urged the ATSB to re-open the investigation.
The latest survey, completed last month with the help of NSW Police and the Australian Federal Police, showed that the wreckage of the aircraft has lain relatively undisturbed since the last survey was done.
"Conditions for the latest survey were difficult, with large ocean swells, poor visibility and a strong underwater current, all likely as a result of the passage of Cyclone Pam to the north of Norfolk Island a couple of weeks previously," the ATSB stated. "Regardless of the less than ideal conditions, the survey exercise was successful and adequate for the ATSB to continue its planning for the next phase based on a good understanding of the state of the wreckage:
- The wreckage remains at its last recorded position, submerged in water to a depth of 48 m, approximately 4.5 km to the west of Norfolk Island
- Both wings, both engines, the rear section of fuselage and the tail remain attached and were accounted for during the survey
- The two major fuselage segments are no longer connected by flight control cables (as they were in 2009) and the front section of the passenger compartment has shifted slightly as a result of underwater currents, but the two segments remain close together
- The wreckage has been resting on a sandy-based ocean floor and as a consequence the tail section of the fuselage containing the flight recorders has been partially buried by the movement of sand. The left and right main landing gear have also been partially buried by sand
- Both engines, as well as the left and right wings, remain clear of the sandy ocean floor."
The survey was done to help the ATSB decide what its option are with regard to recovering the flight data recorders. So far, the new investigation has been restricted to reviewing documents an conducting interviews with staff from CASA, Pel-Air and other organisations.