A 65-year-old pilot who survived a crash that killed his 83-year-old passenger was flying without a licence, the ATSB has revealed.
The transport safety authority announced it was therefore inappropriate for it to further investigate the incident because the pilot and plane were operating “outside of aviation regulations”.
The ATSB also said the aircraft had not been maintained in line with regulations since it was bought in 2011.
The 44-year-old amateur-built Jodel D11 crashed on a beach at Ball Bay, north-west of Mackay Airport in Queensland, on 24 December 2021, following an engine failure.
One of the aircraft’s wooden propeller blades broke off and the aircraft rotated before rolling onto its side, becoming partially inverted.
The passenger was fatally injured, while the pilot was taken to hospital, and was later discharged. The aircraft was destroyed.
It is alleged that the pilot involved did not hold a pilot licence with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, nor an aircraft maintenance engineer licence, despite the fact that he was in control of the aircraft and had been maintaining the plane himself.
“The Australian Transport Safety Bureau conducts independent ‘no-blame’ investigations into accidents and incidents for the purpose of identifying safety issues and actions and to help prevent the occurrence of similar future accidents, and we do not investigate for the purpose of taking administrative, regulatory or criminal action,” said ATSB chief commissioner Angus Mitchell.
“In this tragic accident, ATSB investigators established quite quickly that the aircraft, an amateur-built two-seat Jodel D11, was being operated outside of aviation regulations.
“The pilot was not licensed to fly aeroplanes and the aircraft and engine had not been maintained in accordance with the appropriate regulations for about 10 years.”
Given the fact that the aircraft had not been maintained to regulatory standards for a decade, the ATSB stated that a further investigation into the cause of the engine failure that caused the plane to crash would have been “unlikely” to lead to the identification of broader systemic safety issue.
“On that basis, the ATSB has determined that there was limited opportunity that continuing to direct resources at this investigation would uncover safety learnings for the broader aviation industry,” Mitchell said.
He said investigators also determined during their examination of the aircraft wreckage that the passenger’s seat belt had completely failed at two locations.
“Both the pilot and passenger’s seat belts were manufactured in May 1973 and were required to be removed from service prior to 1 January 1990 in accordance with a Civil Aviation Safety Authority airworthiness directive,” Mitchell said.
“When owners operate outside of the rules, they remove the built-in safety defences and undetected problems are more likely to emerge.”