Safety bureau yet to release findings into fatal Mount Gambier charity flight

TRAGIC SCENE: Investigators sift through the wreckage of an Angel Flight that crashed near Mount Gambier in 2017.

THE family of the Mount Gambier Angel Flight victims says it is looking forward to the full report into the accident being released to gain a clearer picture of the organisation’s safety record.

Robert Redding – who lost his sister-in-law and niece in the aviation disaster – has spoken out today to mark the two-year anniversary of the tragic accident.

At exactly 10.23am two years ago, the SOCATA TB-10 Tobago plunged into a paddock at Suttontown – shattering the lives of two families and the city’s tight-knit community.

The devastating accident tragically claimed the lives of Mount Gambier mother Tracy Redding, 43, her daughter Emily, 16 and Mount Barker volunteer pilot Grant Gilbert, 78.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is yet to hand down its full report into the crash north of Mount Gambier.

“You really have to wonder what kind of organisation Angel Flight is,” Mr Redd told The Border Watch.

“Why are they so hell-bent on fighting against the tightening of safety regulations by Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)?’

Mr Redding said public safety must be the charitable organisation’s highest priority, especially with the type of service they offered.

“Or are they more concerned with looking after their own self interests,” he questioned.

“When the ATSB report finally sees the light of day, maybe then we’ll get a clearer picture of Angel Flight’s true safety record.

“I highly doubt it’s as unblemished as they claim it is. Time will tell I guess.

The incident – which sent shock waves across aviation sector – led to an overhaul in regulations for aviation community service providers such as Angel Flight.

CASA corporate communications manager Peter Gibson yesterday stood by the new standards amid a legal challenge by Angel Flight.

He said the new standards were introduced to improve safety following a number of community flight accidents.

The new regulations focused on ensuring pilots were “suitably qualified” to undertake these flights.

“We (CASA) felt this was sensible action to take after these accidents occurred. The public has been very supportive of these new safety standards,” Mr Gibson said.

“There has been no backlash from the public, however Angel Flight is in the process of taking legal action against these new standards – that is still ongoing.

“CASA has made safety improvements from learning from these tragedies… Angel Flight is not supportive and that’s a matter for them.”

Mr Gibson said it was important there were minimum standards given people were being taken to medical appointments that could placed pilots under pressure.

But he CASA was “mindful” of ensuring the new standards were not “too restrictive” on community service flights.

“CASA is supportive of community service flights – we want them to flourish.”

Angel Flight chief executive officer Marjorie Pagani declined to comment yesterday.

But Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia chief executive officer Ben Morgan yesterday slammed the new standards.

“These changes have no bearing in preventing accidents,” said Mr Morgan, who described the measures as “ridiculous”.

Conceding it was an emotional issue for the grieving families, the pilot sector advocate said the solution was not about creating red tape, but providing more education and support.

“We need to be build a safety framework so these accidents never happen again,” Mr Morgan said.

He said the cause of these accidents were attributed to “human factors”, not regulatory matters.

“What CASA has done not address human factors in the cockpit,” Mr Morgan said.

In fact, he said Angel Flight could not be blamed for the Mount Gambier accident.

Mr Morgan also claimed the charitable organisation had an “incredibly low rate” of accidents.

The aviation disaster occurred just 2km from the Mount Gambier Airport’s departure runway.

According to the five-page preliminary report, just after take-off the private charity aircraft veered to the left of the runway at an altitude of about 300ft above mean sea level and reached a maximum altitude of about 500ft.

The last recorded information – about 65 seconds after take-off – showed the aircraft en route to Adelaide at an altitude of 400ft.

Investigators have sifted through an extensive amount of evidence, including closed circuit television footage from the airport.