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Independent probe launched into fatal Taipan crash

written by Adam Thorn | February 23, 2024

Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral David Johnston, and Greg Moriarty, Secretary of the Department of Defence, honour the Taipan crash victims. (Defence, Nicole Mankowski)

An independent inquiry has been launched into last year’s Taipan crash that killed four crew.

The investigation will be led by former judge Margaret McMurdo and supported by retired Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi and barrister Colonel Jens Streit.

Margaret McMurdo was appointed President of Queensland’s Court of Appeal from 1998 until 2017 and was also acting Chief Justice of the state in 2015.

Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, meanwhile, has considerable aviation and air safety experience, while Colonel Jens Streit is also a senior army reservist.

The inquiry was instigated by the Inspector-General of the ADF, who is responsible for independently investigating the deaths of defence personnel.


Its first public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, 27 February 2024, at the Brisbane Convention Centre and anyone wishing to provide relevant information or submissions should visit this website.

The accident killed four men – Capt Daniel Lyon, Lt Maxwell Nugent, WO Class Two Joseph Laycock and Cpl Alexander Naggs – and the search for them in the aftermath at one point involved 800 people.

It was also significantly one of a string of accidents involving the aircraft type, which was separately grounded in 2019, 2021 and earlier in 2023.

It led to the federal government eventually deciding to ground the aircraft permanently and accelerate the delivery of its replacement, the Black Hawk.

The news of an inquiry comes after Australian Aviation reported last month how Australia was committed to disposing of its Taipans rather than selling them.

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy said a global search undertaken by MRH-90 Taipan contractor NATO Helicopter Industries to find buyers for the fleet uncovered “zero interest” before hitting back at public scrutiny over the government’s refusal to send the capability to Ukraine.

“After the tragic crash last year, we were faced with a circumstance where the fleet had to be grounded while those crash investigations were undertaken, and they’re still ongoing,” Minister Conroy said.

“The government made the decision to permanently ground the fleet, and in September last year, some months before any request was received, we began the disposal strategy. We then worked with Airbus, the manufacturer of the helicopter, to establish whether there was any existing users that were interested in the air frames, and there were none.

“We then contracted NATO Helicopter Industries to do a global scan of the market to see if anyone was interested in buying the air frames who was a new customer. There was zero interest in buying the air frames.

“Therefore, the best value for taxpayers was to disassemble the aircraft and to begin selling the spare parts. Because the other option would have been to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Airbus Australia to maintain these aircraft in a flying condition when there was no prospect that they would be flying again for the Australian Army.”

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