14 Dec 2012

Air Force makes changes since Anzac Day crash

6:09 pm on 14 December 2012

A review of the Air Force's response to the Anzac Day helicopter crash two years ago has found large changes are being made.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman ordered the review after a military court of inquiry last year uncovered an Air Force culture of rule-breaking and inadequately trained squadrons.

Three men were killed when their Iroquois crashed in low cloud near Wellington on the way to Anzac Day commemorations in 2010.

The review by a professional services firm found most of the court of inquiry's recommendations have been implemented, and all will be finished by next June.

It finds the Air Force has substantially improved its organisational culture by introducing an independent Operating Airworthiness Regulator, forming a new flying wing and making changes to the command of No 3 squadron.

The review also says the Defence Force is strengthening the governance role of the Air Force Leadership Board.

The Defence Minister is confident that the Air Force is improving on its cavalier safety record following the review.

Dr Coleman says the Cabinet will consider giving the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment the powers to investigate military accidents - a recommendation made in the review.

"If a new structure is set up it will would just give absolute clarity as well as provide the expertise for investigating this sort of incident.

"So I'll be taking that to the Cabinet next year and we'll look at the report and the Cabinet will make a collective decision on our arrangements."

The Labour Party says Government pressure may be compromising Defence Force safety.

Defence spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway says the Defence Force is going through a lot of organisational change and the Government is putting it under pressure to do more with less.

Mr Lees-Galloway says those making resourcing decisions must always bear the Anzac Day crash in mind. He says he is concerned a number of positions are unfilled in flying wing 488 which oversees the Iroquois squadrons.

But Dr Coleman says the review proves that the Air Force has taken the crash seriously and made its flying culture safer and Labour's criticisms are just petty politics.