Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Aviation investigator will defend charges of forging crash evidence

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Civil Aviation Authority investigator who allegedly forged an email presented to an inquest into a mid-air collision will defend charges against him, his lawyer says.

Flight examiner David Fielding, 30, and student pilot James Taylor, 19, died when their helicopter and a Cessna piloted by Bevan Hookway, 17, collided above Paraparaumu on February 17, 2008.

During the inquest in October Mr Fielding's family received an unsolicited email purporting to be from aviation expert Frank Sharp, manager of Professional Programmes at Massey University's School of Aviation.

Mr Sharp denied any knowledge of it.

Name suppression expired this morning for Peter Kirker, a former CAA safety investigation manager, who has been charged with forgery, use of a forged document and perverting the course of justice, the CAA said in a statement.

Kirker's lawyer Greg King today said his client would be defending all the charges brought against him.

"He wants to make it clear that he rejects the insinuations that have been put forward in the public arena by the Civil Aviation Authority,'' Mr King said.

"His clear instructions are that his intentions at all stages are to ensure that all relevant material is before the coroner, that is what has motivated him and is what is motivating him to this day.''

When the CAA became aware of the allegations Kirker was suspended from his job pending the outcome of an employment investigation.

But before this was completed Kirker unconditionally resigned from his employment with the CAA, which came to an end last Thursday, the CAA said.

"The CAA expects the highest standards of conduct from all of its staff, and the issues that have arisen in respect of Mr Kirker's employment would not be tolerated by the CAA from any staff member. The CAA regrets the involvement of a CAA staff member in such action as this, and is deeply concerned about the impacts the alleged actions may have on the Inquest, and in particular the families of Mr Fielding, Mr Taylor and Mr Hookway.''

Kirker is due to reappear in court early next year.

Meanwhile, the coronial inquest into the death of the three men resumed today when one of New Zealand's most experienced rescue pilots John Funnell took to the stand.

Mr Funnell, who has 45 years of aviation experience, said the overhead joining procedure, which Mr Hookway was doing at the time of the crash, was not a safe manoeuvre and refused to ever do it.

He also advised other pilots to never do the manoeuvre - which describes the way a pilot joins the traffic pattern at an aerodrome.

"My view is very strong, that it is not a safe way [to manoeuvre].''

He had great concerns about the procedure and said it was not needed now because of modern radio systems.

Following Mr Funnell's evidence the inquest was adjourned until next year when Kirker would give evidence, after his case had been dealt with in court.

- APNZ

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