20 Jul 2017

Commission recommends better health warning alerts for pilots

7:23 pm on 20 July 2017

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has recommended better health warning alerts for pilots and others in the aviation industry.

A Robinson R44 helicopter

A Robinson R44 helicopter Photo: 123RF

Its recommendations follow a reprised investigation into a fatal helicopter crash near Queenstown in 2015, in which an instructor and student pilot were killed.

The commission's initial investigation said the cause of the mast bump and resulting in-flight break-up was not conclusive.

It resumed the inquiry when new evidence came to light concerning the mental health of the instructor prior to the crash.

After interviewing the man's GP and the commission's own medical expert, investigators found that it's highly likely that he was medically fit to fly when he received his medical certificate.

The commission's report concludes that it is very unlikely there were any medical issues that contributed to the accident.

But the commission says the case has highlighted weaknesses in the medical certification system.

It has now recommended that the director of Civil Aviation review the process to ensure it's able to identify potentially serious health issues with pilots and other aviation document holders.

It has also recommended that the Ministry of Health consider adding features to a national electronic health record database being developed.

This would allow monitoring of people in safety-critical occupations who have potentially adverse health conditions or medications.

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