Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Air Force squadron warned before fatal crash, tribunal told

The RNZAF Iroquois helicopter crashed into a steep hillside north of Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The RNZAF Iroquois helicopter crashed into a steep hillside north of Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

An Air Force squadron was warned before a fatal helicopter crash on Anzac Day three years ago that the practice of flying under low cloud contravened Air Force rules, a tribunal was told today.

The crash happened early on April 25, 2010 on the Kapiti Coast, when the three helicopters were on their way from Ohakea air base to Wellington for an early morning flyover of an Anzac service.

Three crew were killed and one seriously injured.

The lead pilot in the formation of three, Flight Lieutenant Dan Pezaro has denied a charge of being negligent for not aborting the mission earlier when the weather turned bad.

Yesterday a military tribunal at the Air Force base in Ohakea was told Flight Lieutenant Pezaro had flown his helicopter below some low cloud, beneath the Air Force's regulation height.

Retired Squadron Leader Rob Stockley continued to give evidence at the tribunal today.

He said when he first arrived at 3 Squadron in 2009 he emailed other instructors concerned that the practice of pilots being given the discretion to fly under low cloud appeared to be accepted practice, despite Air Force rules that stated otherwise.

"I was alone in my strong rhetoric," he said.

However, he said he didn't push the issue or take it to higher ranking officials because he was too busy or had decided the practice was not too serious.

At the end of the hearing, before Wing Commander Shaun Sexton, to determine if there is evidence to support a prima facie case, Wing Commander Sexton will decide whether the matter will be tried summarily or go to a court martial.

The hearing continues.

- APNZ

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