The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has said it won’t investigate the fatal mid-air collision this week near the Sunshine Coast because it has to prioritise its resources towards larger aircraft.
The organisation told The Australian it understood the next of kin “wanted answers” but had to allocate its resources towards cases that would generate the “greatest public safety benefit”.
On Wednesday, a recreation aircraft and glider crashed into each other, killing the sole pilots, an 80-year-old, Christopher Turner and a 77-year-old as yet unidentified Glenwood man.
The ATSB’s chief commissioner, Angus Mitchell, said, “We understand that next of kin and the flying community that these two gentlemen were involved in do want answers, but as it stands at the moment, we do prioritise our resources to those investigations that will see the greatest public safety benefit.
“That means large passenger carrying aircraft are at the top of our priority list and then smaller passenger carrying and commercial work, then aerial work and flying training.”
Mitchell said the ATSB would help both the Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus) and the Gliders Federation of Australia to launch their own probe.
However, the RAAus chair Michael Monck said it was itself “feeling the pinch like every other organisation” and received “very little funding”.
The Gliders Federation of Australia VP Lindsay Mitchell said the ATSB had “done it before”.
“They say you fellows can take care of that. You do the investigation,” said Mitchell.
Australian Aviation reported earlier this week how one witness told 7News he was sitting on his veranda when he heard a “big bang”.
“We thought that didn’t sound like a gunshot, and we looked up and saw white bits of plane falling out of the sky.”
Before the crash, the glider and its tug aircraft took off from Gympie Aerodrome at Kybong, the home of Sunshine Coast Gliding Club.
It has been confirmed the second aircraft involved in the incident was not the tow plane.
Inspector Brad Inskip said, “The glider left from the gliding club. At this stage, we’re not sure where the ultralight came from, whether it came from here … it’s too early to know.
“The investigation will involve mapping those scenes, examining the aircraft and going from there, and obviously witness statements and interviews.
“This is a tragic incident and quite a graphic scene left there for all the emergency services and for the witnesses … terrible for the family and for those involved.
“This is a little local airport where many people in the community are here together — the gliding club is obviously very close.
“It’s a small little regional gliding club. They all know each other. This is going to hit the community very hard.”
Queensland’s Forensic Crash Unit is investigating the circumstances of the incident, and a report will be prepared for the coroner.
Mid-air crashes are rare, with the last in Australia taking place in February 2020.