Weather, fuel planning focus for Norfolk investigation

written by australianaviation.com.au | January 18, 2010
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Pel-Air Westwind VH-NGA, which ditched off Norfolk Island on November 18 2009. (Paul Sadler)

The ATSB has released a preliminary report into the ditching of a Pel-Air IAI Westwind off Norfolk Island on November 18 2009, noting that it plans to examine further the effect meteorological information had on the actions of the crew, fuel planning and other operational elements of the flight.

According to the report, the pilot in charge of the Westwind departed from Apia, Samoa, on an aeromedical flight to Melbourne with a planned refuelling stop at Norfolk Island. At the time, the forecast conditions at Norfolk did not require additional holding fuel to be carried, and as such the crew elected only to fill the aircraft’s main tanks, leaving no fuel in its wingtip tanks.

During the flight, the crew received reports from Auckland Oceanic and the Norfolk Island Unicom operator indicating that conditions at the airport had significantly deteriorated below landing minima. During four attempted landings, the crew were not able to visually acquire the runway before ditching the aircraft approximately 3nm west of the island. All occupants were rescued by a vessel from the island approximately 90 minutes later.

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The ATSB noted that since the accident Pel-Air has commenced a program to check and revalidate a number of its Westwind pilots’ understandings of a number of its policies and procedures. The investigation is continuing, and is focusing on further analysis of the meteorological flight information and its effect on decision making by the crew, fuel planning, operational requirements of the flight, crew resource management, and aeromedical flight classification and dispatch.

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