Civil Aviation Authority could improve after 600 pilots admit to shortcuts

By Sarah Harris

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After over 150 accidents involving small planes and helicopters a review has found the Civil Aviation Authority could improve how it oversees the sector.

The most fatal of the 170 accidents over eight years involved helicopters. Just over 100 accidents involved helicopters, in which 11 people were killed. Six people were killed in light plane crashes, stated the report commissioned by the CAA.

RNZ National reported that the independent review aims to ensure operators comply with specific safety standards

A separate poll showed almost 600 respondents admitted they took shortcuts. Only 11 per cent said they would never cut corners.

The poll showed more than 50 per cent of helicopter operators said they would push their craft beyond their performance limitations.

CAA deputy director of general aviation Steve Moore told RNZ the review identified a number of areas which increased risks for operators.

"Things like commercial pressures, training - the role of the regulator. We'll pick the important ones with the industry and work on them to make sure the sector stays safe. I'm not saying it's unsafe, we'd just like it to be safer."

The managing director of Nelson-based global helicopter firm HNZ New Zealand, Denis Laird, told RNZ National the accident rate was unacceptable. He said it was linked to old-fashioned entrenched thinking.

"It's an unacceptable rate and there's no excuse for it. There's a lot of cultural, historical issues that exist in New Zealand's helicopter industry that are causal in this."

Laird stated that the centralisation of CAA services had not helped, as there were now fewer people around the country checking safety standards.

He told RNZ National the authority struggled to keep up with operators who were not complying with the rules, which, according to anecdote, happened all the time. He added that the industry was diverse, and New Zealand was hampered by regions that were difficult to cover.

"We've got the Department of Conservation which is a big user and [CAA] issue a lot of permits to operate in the parks, and they tend to have a very hands-off approach to that.

"Accidents are happening and yet the concessions aren't reviewed. It's completely unacceptable."

- NZ Herald

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