11 Apr 2013

Squadron's orders in disarray, crash inquiry told

10:40 pm on 11 April 2013

A former Squadron Leader has told a hearing at Ohakea air base that when he returned to 3 Squadron its orders were in disarray and it was under-resourced.

Rob Stockley was giving evidence at a hearing for Flight Lieutenant Dan Pezaro who was leading a formation of three helicopters, one of which was involved in a fatal crash on Anzac Day 2010.

Flight-Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, Flying Officer Daniel Gregory and Corporal Ben Carson died when their Iroquois crashed at Pukerua Bay while en route to a dawn ceremony in Wellington on 25 April that year. Sergeant Stevin Creeggan was seriously injured.

Flight Lieutenant Pezaro is charged with negligently failing to perform a duty by not aborting the mission when the weather deteriorated. He is not alleged to have directly caused the accident.

Mr Stockley authorised the fatal mission and told the hearing on Thursday he didn't consider that Flight Lieutenant Pezaro's actions were negligent.

He said the squadron had a culture of pushing the limits, and members seemed to believe that they had a discretion to infringe limits set for flying bad weather.

Mr Stockley said customarily in 3 Squadron there were no limits, other than what the pilot was comfortable with, and it was not normal practice at the time to abort a mission if it could still be completed.

A military police officer told the hearing he saw nothing specific to suggest who was leading the three-helicopter formation.

Army Staff Sergeant Michael Marr said he understood Flight Lieutenant Pezaro was in charge of the formation because he was piloting the lead aircraft, but saw nothing specifically stating that was so.

Questions have also been raised about whether orders given surrounding the flight were couched in the language military orders ought to be.

In a video interview, Flight Lieutenant Pezaro said on Thursday that the operating orders at Ohakea were a shambles, with several orders in use including Defence Force Flying Orders, Squadron Orders and temporary orders.

He said he volunteered for the Anzac Day flight because it was an honour to be involved.

The hearing continues on Friday.