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Old 20th Aug 2007, 05:13
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 309
Parallels may end riddle

Article from: The Sunday Tasmanian

August 19, 2007 12:00am

THE Civil Aviation Safety Authority has confirmed it is looking into alarming similarities between a plane crash that killed two in Victoria last month and an accident near Hobart in 2004.

Millionaire aviation businessman Steve Nott and young pilot Janelle Johnston died when their twin-engined Aero Commander 500 went down near Clonbinane in Victoria on July 31.

Striking similarities have emerged with the death of 21-year-old-pilot Heather Cochrane who was the sole occupant of an identical plane that crashed in fine weather on the way from Hobart to Devonport in 2004.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is investigating the crash, has noted "intriguing parallels" between the two accidents.

It is hoped the new investigation may provide answers about what caused the 2004 tragedy -- the exact cause of which remains a mystery.
Wreckage was scattered over 1300m in the 2004 crash "consistent with the aircraft having sustained an in-flight structural failure of both wings and the tailplane," the ATSB report said.

Early accounts of the Victorian accident are that the plane sustained massive damage in mid-air -- with both wings and its tail torn off.
The tail section was found 700m from the fuselage.

CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said it had contacted the operators of 65 registered Aero Commanders around the country to see if they had had problems with their planes.

Five Aero Commanders are registered in Tasmania.

But Mr Gibson said, at this stage, there was no need to ground the fleet -- most of which were more than 30 years old. "We are aware of the similarities (between the accidents) but we need evidence of a real problem and at this stage we don't have that," Mr Gibson said.
Operators too are not worried about the safety of the planes, which are often described as the "workhorses of the sky".

Tasmanian Aero Club manager Joe Miller said he and his pilots had no concerns about flying their Aero Commanders, which is the sister aircraft to the one that went down in 2004.

"They are built like a brick shithouse and we have not had any problems with wing fatigue or structural problems since we started operating them here," he said.

But Aero Commanders have had a long history of in-flight accidents.
A paper prepared by CASA principal fatigue engineer S. Swift in 1995 highlighted 24 cases where Aero Commanders had lost wings in flight, and 35 others where serious cracks had been found.

CASA said problems with wing fatigue and cracking had been addressed in ageing aircraft maintenance directives and through ongoing inspections.
ATSB deputy director aviation safety and investigation Julian Walsh said early evidence from the Victorian crash was that the maintenance regime had been adhered to.

He said investigators were looking for anything that linked the latest crash with the Tasmanian accident.

"There is no doubt there are some intriguing parallels between the two and, as the investigation develops, that will be something we will be particularly interested in," Mr Walsh said.

He said the weather on the night of the accident, which included severe wind gusts of up to 80km/h, was of "significant interest".
They will also look closely at the auto-pilot, which was identified as a possible factor in the Tasmanian crash.

Tasmanian independent aviation consultant Brian Morgan, who investigated the 2004 accident for charter operator Tasair, said two similar accidents were not proof of an inherent problem.

"Aero Commanders are one of my favourite aeroplanes to fly -- they are wonderful aeroplanes, very stable and very easy to fly," Mr Morgan said.
"Both aircraft appear to have suffered structural failures in the air but, whether that is due to inherent problems of the aircraft or entirely different circumstances, we may never know."

A preliminary report into the Victorian accident is likely to be released by the end of the month.

THIS is a bit more of a professional effort from a journalist!

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