A recent Australian Senate investigation report was highly critical of both the Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Senators questioned the investigation into the Nov. 18, 2009 crash of a Pel-Air Westwind into the ocean near Norfolk Island.
“While the pilot of the flight did make some erroneous decisions, he essentially became a scapegoat for serious regulatory failures on the part of CASA and the ATSB,” said Senator Nick Xenophon, questioning what he characterized as undue influence on the ATSB by some CASA officials. “In the end, this report raises many questions. But if we wish to bring about change and improve aviation safety, we will clearly need to look beyond our inept regulators and ask: ‘Who will guard the guards themselves?’” he added.
“The ATSB report focused primarily on pilot error…the pilot ran the aircraft out of fuel, ditched in the ocean and luckily all six people aboard survived.” According to the Senate report, “the ATSB repeatedly deflected suggestions that significant deficiencies with both the operator [identified in a CASA Special Audit of Pel-Air] and CASA’s oversight of Pel-Air contributed to the accident.” The Senate investigation faulted the ATSB for waiting two-and-a-half years to request that CASA conduct a special audit of Pel-Air, receiving the report from this process only a month before reaching its final conclusion.
The Senate report also included 26 recommendations surrounding this accident and how future collaborations between the two Australian safety agencies should work.