Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus) said yesterday that it would no longer head-up investigations into fatal accidents involving recreational aircraft.
The decision comes after the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) elected not to investigate a fatal mid-air collision between a glider and a recreational aircraft at Kybong near Gympie in early November. RAAus has also decided to leave the investigation to the QLD Coroner.
RAAus Chair Michael Monck issued a communique on behalf of the board yesterday explaining the decision to stop investigating fatal crashes.
"In recent years, as a result of the ATSB choosing not to investigate sport aviation fatal accidents, RAAus has played a crucial role in formally supporting state police and coroners, to assist them in understanding the circumstances around how/why an accident occurred," Monck said.
"An artefact is that our participation has masked the fact that the ATSB have not been involved. Because of this our staff have endured WHS [workplace health and safety] risk associated with deploying to accident sites, our reputation has at times been tainted due to our inability to share the reports we write as they ‘belong’ to the Coroner thus impeding the safety benefits for all aviators, and our members have funded a function that is not a core activity of RAAus."
According to RAAus, accident investigations are funded for other airspace users while RAAus' members are excluded the safety benefits that come from investigations. The communique says that RAAus has been subjected to strong criticism for a perceived lack of independence in investigation findings even though RAAus was forced to investigate accidents involving their own members.
Monck pointed out also that ATSB investigations are covered by the Transport Safety Investigtion Act 2003, which provides the ATSB with a level of protection. RAAus is not covered by that legislation, so assumed all risks.
Monck said the organisation had strongly sought ATSB involvement in the Gympie accident, but had not been successful.
"For the recent accident at Kybong, we contend that in applying their prioritisation system, the ATSB should have investigated this accident given the high airspace risk that is evident and that an investigation would yield significant benefits for all airspace users, not just sport aviation organisations," he said.
"RAAus is strongly of the view that an independent understanding of the circumstances into this accident is essential and that the ATSB is best placed to do this."
RAAus has said it will continue to support police and coroners where required and would lobby the Federal Government to provide funds to enable the ATSB to investigate more aviation accidents including ones involving recreational aircraft.