21 Nov 2016

No answers yet on fatal 2015 Fox Glacier helicopter crash

6:46 am on 21 November 2016

Today marks a year since a scenic helicopter flight over Fox Glacier over turned to disaster.

Today marks a year since a scenic helicopter flight over Fox Glacier over turned to disaster.

The wreckage of the helicopter on Fox Glacier.

The wreckage of the helicopter on Fox Glacier. Photo: NZ Police

Seven people were killed when the Alpine Adventures squirrel helicopter crashed on 21 November 2015.

At the time the company said the helicopter had just taken off from the ice and no mayday call was made before it fell into a deep crevasse.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) is still investigating the cause.

TAIC's latest update, given to the victim's families, said the wreckage had been examined by a team from France.

"This included an engineer from the helicopter manufacturer and three investigators from the French air investigation agency, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA).

"The engine had also been inspected in the United States by the engine manufacturer under the direct supervision of the Commission's investigator in charge," the statement said.

TAIC said various components of the flight control system had been tested and inspected in Australia.

"We are now near the end of the analysis phase and work on drafting the report will begin shortly."

Rescue helicopter used to recover the last three people who died in the crash.

A rescue helicopter used to recover three of the people who died in the crash. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

The final report into the accident is expected to be published in May or June.

There are 140 Squirrel helicopters registered in New Zealand. They make up 17 percent of the country's helicopter fleet.

Following the crash the Civil Aviation Authority grounded Alpine Adventure's fleet of helicopters due to safety concerns.

In July, the company surrendered its license.

The authority has charged the company's owner, James Patrick Scott, and quality assurance manager Barry Waterland.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges under the Health and Safety legislation. A trial date has not been set.

The seven people on board the flight were: Andrew Virco, 50, and Katharine Walker, 51, from Cambridge, UK; Nigel Edwin Charlton, 66, and Cynthia Charlton, 70, of Hampshire, UK; Sovannmony Leang, 27, and Josephine Gibson, 29 of New South Wales, Australia; and New Zealand pilot Mitch Gameren, 28.

CAA directives

A week after the Fox Glacier helicopter crash the Civil Aviation Authority issued an airworthiness directive for the make of Squirrel helicopters.

The directive related to the weight the aircraft could carry.

The helicopters were initially produced with six seats, but modifications by the manufacturer replaced the two seats in the front with three - increasing the weight of the passenger load.

The directive, which was a result of another Squirrel accident in 2014, was that operators must ensure the combined weight of the two occupants on the forward two-place seat did not exceed 154kg.

Although the Fox Glacier helicopter had seven people on board TAIC said the cause of the crash will not be known until the final report is published.

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