15 Aug 2012

Fox Glacier crash plane overloaded, owner admits

7:39 pm on 15 August 2012

The owner of a skydiving plane that crashed at Fox Glacier in 2010, killing nine people, has admitted that the aircraft was being overloaded.

The converted top dressing plane crashed on 4 September 2010, killing all on board. An inquest is being held in Greymouth.

Early in his evidence John Kerr, the aircraft's owner and sometime pilot, challenged a Transport Accident Investigation report blaming the crash on modifications he had carried out.

Mr Kerr asked how investigators could say the crash resulted from the plane not being properly loaded, when it had flown with similar numbers of passengers on 78 occasions before the September incident without any problems.

But under further questioning by the lawyer assisting the Coroner, Grant Burston, Mr Kerr admitted that the aircraft was being overloaded.

Mr Kerr said on Wednesday both he and the pilot in charge on the day of the crash, Chaminda Senadhira, were concerned about the lack of information they had about the limitations of the plane once it had been converted for skydiving.

They intended looking into this further when the plane was due for its 100-hour maintenance check.

The aircraft crashed before that check was carried out.

Earlier, an aviation expert who investigated the crash for the Coroner says the plane was likely to be carrying a much heavier load than estimated by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

The commission estimated that the plane was 17kg overweight. However, aviation expert Barry Payne told the inquest the aircraft could have been up to 147kg over.

Mr Payne said this is important, because it means the aircraft would not have behaved in the way the pilot expected it to.

Even small differences in weight and the way it is distributed, could alter the manner in which an aircraft performs and and even cause loss of control, he said.