20 Dec 2011

Former CAA employee charged over fake e-mail

5:41 pm on 20 December 2011

An inquest into the deaths of three men in a mid-air crash near Paraparaumu in 2008 has been adjourned until next year to allow a former Civil Aviation Authority employee to give evidence.

The former employee, Peter Kirker, has been charged in relation to the alleged forgery of an e-mail that was placed before an earlier sitting of the inquest.

Trainee pilot James Taylor and his examiner David Fielding were killed when their helicopter collided with a Cessna being flown solo by Bevan Hookway near Paraparaumu in 2008.

The CAA said that during the last sitting of the inquest it became apparent that the e-mail sent to the family of Mr Fielding was not from

the manager of Massey University's Aviation School, Frank Sharpe.

The coroner asked police to investigate and Peter Kirker, 52, was subsequently charged with forgery and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Kirker resigned last week from his position as safety investigation manager at the Civil Aviation Authority. The suppression of his name lapsed on Tuesday.

The CAA says it expects the highest standards of conduct from all its staff and is deeply concerned about the impact the alleged actions may have on the inquest.

However, Mr Kirker's lawyer Greg King says the charges will be defended and his client was simply to trying to ensure that all relevant material was before the coroner.

Experienced pilot critical of manoeuvre

New Zealand's most experienced rescue pilot, helicopter operator John Funnell has criticised an overhead manoeuvre used by pilots involved in the 2008 crash.

Mr Funnel told the inquest on Tuesday the plane's overhead rejoin manoeuvre was unnecessary and increased the element of danger, compared with other measures available to pilots.

He says many airports now also warn pilots against the manoeuvre because of the safety risks it involves.