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Old 4th Jun 2012, 06:48
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Brisbane
Posts: 27
Barry Hempel Inquest


I attended many sessions of this inquest last week Ė an inquest into the deaths of Barry Hempel and Ian Lovell in the YAK-52 accidentof 3rd August 2008 off Jumpin Pin, South Stradbroke Island Ė yes, thatís almost 4 years ago! The assembled legal teams were numerous, with coroner, barrister assisting the coroner, CASAís QC, insurer QBE's QC, Ian Lovell's familyís QC and then various legal representations from witnesses including Hempel's Aviation CEO, Mr Hempelís widow and a string of Mr Hempelís doctors and others. I was beginning to think I was at a major trial and not an inquest.

I'm surprised that the media does not appear to befollowing these proceedings, especially considering the numerous previous media reports at the time of the accident and following it. This is, or certainly should be, a major public interest case. As the inquest progressed, many cover ups, incompetencies and blatant lies were exposed.

There can be little doubt that Barry Hempel, in his prime, was ranked among the best pilots in Australia. His knowledge of his aircraft and his flying skills were of a high order. I am sure that many who were trained by him found those skills impressive. Then there was an upset. Evidence has been presented that following ahead injury in 2001, he underwent a major behavioral change. As a result of a hangar door accident he had brain damage and subsequent epileptic events. It appears that following partial recovery he was involved in a string of non-aviation offences.

During this last week, numerous witnesses were called, ranging from Queensland Police representatives, Ian Lovellís partner, eye witnesses to the crash, doctors, the Hempel's CEO, Hempel's Chief Pilot and CASA. It was clear that some witnesses had been primed by their legal representatives, for many were their stock responses of ďI do not recallĒ. The accounts from doctors involved with MrHempel were horrendous. They revealed many instances of malpractice, including alleged loss of records or the non-existence of them.

It was alleged that Mr Hempel had over one hundred violation notices issued by CASA. Itleft one thinking of what you really had to do to be struck off for good. It appears that he had his Commercial Pilotís Licence revoked in March 2008. That being so, on the day of the crash, 31 August 2008, he should not have been taking up fare paying passengers. (Ian Lovell was the third such passenger that day).

Hempel's CEO stated that he wasnít really a true CEO, only acting as one so that Hempel's Aviation could get it's Air Operator's Certificate, (AOC), with CASA. He stated that he knew that CASA had cancelled Mr Hempelís Commercial Pilot's Licence, but believed, because Mr Hempel had told him so, that because he had held a special authority before entitling him to fly the YAK-52 aerobatic warbirds aircraft, that authority was still valid. Even the company's Chief Pilot, on the stand, stated that he had no knowledge of Mr Hempel undertaking commercial flights in the Yak-52.

The court heard scarcely credible accounts of cover-ups, deceits, malpractices and blatant lies which had the coroner, the coroner's QC and most of the public gallery patently shocked. It became clear that there were many who knew of the potential hazard who could have reported the dubious operations, or otherwise alerted others.

CASA should have have charged Barry Hempel and had Hempel's Aviation shut down.

The CEO should have attempted to stop Mr Hempel from flying and failing that should have resigned, requesting the Chief Pilot to do likewise.

The Chief Pilot should have requested Mr Hempel to stop flying. Were that request ignored, his only proper recourse would have been to resign and submit a full report laying out his reasons for this to the Authority.

The Hempel's Aviation company director turned a blind eye.

Mr Hempelís doctors turned a blind eye.

Of Mr Hempel's many Ďmatesí, (apparently including PPRuNe posters following the crash) Ė not one was prepared to blow the whistle on their 'mate'.

Had just one done so, then this accident would in all probability not have occurred.

It seems extraordinary that CASA could have issued over one hundred violation notices yet failed to bar him from flying as pilot in command- and this from a capital city secondary airport, not out in the sticks where renegades may still be found flying and flouting the law.

One can only hope that, as the inquest proceeds this week,eventually something good will come from it all. For instance, if found necessary, that amended legislation will be enacted and effectively policed. (The whole concept of effective policing combined with fair and equitable surveillance would appear to be in need of searching reappraisal at the top and within the ranks of CASA.)

I will not in any way presume to pre-empt the coroner's findings, but will say it is encouraging to see the thoroughness of the inquest's probings. I hope that when they are handed down, the findings, the outcomes and the recommendations can be acted upon sensibly so that this type of accident is less likely or never to recur.

Last edited by Bedderseagle; 7th Jun 2012 at 23:18. Reason: Clarification
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