16 Dec 2011

Avoidable crash prompts Air Force changes

7:20 pm on 16 December 2011

The Defence Force is recommending sweeping changes throughout the Air Force following a court of inquiry into a fatal helicopter crash last year.

It says the ANZAC Day crash that killed three helicopter crew members and seriously injured another could have been avoided.

Court of Inquiry findings into the crash on 25 April at Pukerua Bay were released on Friday.

Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones, says the Air Force did not train and supervise flying squadrons properly.

He says it has a responsibility to make sure it has the right training systems in place.

Lieutenant-General Jones says there is also a culture of rule-breaking in the Air Force that needs to be addressed.

Air Vice-Marshal Peter Stockwell says a major factor in the crash was the inexperienced flying crew who were not properly trained to fly in difficult weather conditions.

The court said they were not competent to fly in dark cloudy conditions.

There were mitigating risks associated with the crew using night vision goggles.

"He only had a very short period of time in which to transition out of a close formation situation, off night vision goggles, onto his instruments, try to get his situation awareness sorted out - so figuring out where he was over land, where he was in a vertical sense to manage the situation - and that in the end overwhelmed him," Air Vice-Marshal Stockwell says.

The Air Force fully accepts responsibility for the crash.

Father calls for change

Andrew Carson, the father of Corporal Benjamin Carson, says the report shows an alarming can-do culture within the Air Force and those responsible for his son's death should be held to account.