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Pilot, 86, 'broke rules' before crash

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Pilot, 86, 'broke rules' before crash


Total Posts: 494
Joined: February 27, 2012

A pilot's decision to break the rules and fly into cloud, rather than a faulty computer, was to blame for a fatal crash near Nelson, a coroner says.

24 July 2013

A former Olympic sailor was breaking flying rules and may have crashed into a mountain in cloud near Nelson because his navigation computer was giving him the wrong height reading.

However, a coroner has ruled the faulty equipment was not to blame for the crash, rather the pilot's decision to break the rules.

Geoff Smale, 86, who sailed for New Zealand in the 1968 Olympics, died in April 2011 after his high-performance microlight crashed into cloud-covered Mt Duppa, northeast of Nelson, during his first solo flight from Auckland to Ashburton.

He would have been cruising at about 120 knots (222km/h) when he struck the mountain. The aircraft caught fire and debris was scattered over a 20m radius.

In her decision, released on Wednesday, coroner Carla na Nagara says it is "disconcerting" that a data shortcoming could be seen to have contributed to Mr Smale's death.

Mr Smale used a MGL Avionics Stratomaster Odyssey electronic flight information system, which displayed a GPS map, synthetic terrain and terrain warnings.

However, the Civil Aviation says the system cannot be used as a primary navigation tool.

It was later discovered a fold in the map could have made Mt Duppa's height figure read 2000 feet lower, and another problem meant Mr Smale would have thought he was flying at 400ft above Mt Duppa, rather than 200ft below.

The problems with the system have since been fixed.

The CAA's Colin Grounsell told the inquest Mr Smale's licence meant he had to remain clear of cloud, and he was probably flying in contravention of the visual flight rules.

Ms na Nagara said that while it was reasonable to have faith in the accuracy of the navigation equipment, Mr Smale had over relied on it rather than using his basic navigation skills and following the VFR rules.

She agreed with the CAA conclusion that the primary contribution to his death was failing to follow the rules.


Link to article: http://home.nzcity.co.nz/news/article.aspx?id=170759...

Posted on July 24, 2013 at 9:03 AM