UPDATED: More Air National safety shocks uncovered

More damning evidence has been revealed about the safety record of Air National – New Zealand’s highest risk airline - grounded for another two weeks as it fights for survival.

Air National took up a disproportionate amount of the Civil Aviation Authority’s time because of its “elevated risk profile,” according to CAA general manager of airlines Mark Hughes.

Mr Hughes’ disclosures were made in a High Court affidavit released to National Business Review and supported evidence of CAA director Steve Douglas, who said public trust in Air National would be misplaced.

NBR last week revealed CAA considered Air National – New Zealand’s largest charter airline – was also the country’s highest risk airline operator, with a risk factor between two and five times that of other airlines.

CAA affidavits exposed dysfunctional management and a long history of safety breaches and safety-related irregularities.

Last week Mr Douglas said he no longer had confidence “in the ability, or the willingness, of Air National to comply with the requirements and to voluntarily apply corrective actions to restore an acceptable level of safety.”

Fourteen examples of risk identified by Mr Hughes between March 2009 and January this year included:

•Spot checks based on concerns about training and documentation;
•A senior person, Mark Carter, removed from a training and competency management role based on CAA concerns and subsequent suspension and revocation of his airline transport pilot licence (ATPL);
•An infringement notice to BAe 146 “whisper jet” pilot Helen Ross flying with an expired medical certificate and concerns over inadequate systems to track pilot qualifications;
•Significant issues requiring “corrective action” by Air National before a 84-seat BAe 146 international operation was approved.
•Significant issues raised about the training and competency assessment of BAe 146 pilot candidate Simon Wright. Wright did not pass the assessments on two attempts despite extra training and was finally released from Air National. Questions were raised regarding Air National’s pilot screening, selection and training process. (Mr Wright has since contacted NBR to say he was not released by Air National and to challenge the accuracy of Mr Hughes' affidavit)
•Issues around the senior person status of Bonner Bylsma and Kerwin Killian, and concerns raised about performance calculations relating to a Westwind medium corporate jet (formerly used by the Mayor of New York);
•A CAA finding about crew fatigue, including the “serious safety implications” of an 18-hour Gulfstream corporate jet flight with the owner on board;
•Bonner Bylsma, Air National maager of flight operations, training and competency assessmnt, resigned leaving two vacant senior positions. Bylsma raised safety concerns with CAA regarding Air National’s operation, including some involving BAe 146 maintenance.
•Air National voluntarily ground its entire operation last September due to vacant senior positions;
•Air National unable to resume part of its BAe 146 operations due to lack of qualified crew and qualified pilots;
•Air National unable to complete training of pilots for Westwind jet because they have no qualified flight instructor or flight examiner;
•A CAA routine management audit uncovered a number of findings which lead to the ten-day grounding to February 4, and extended by a further ten working days to February 18.

Mr Hughes told how a three-day audit in January uncovered:

•Falsification of training records involving Air National manager of flight operations Andrew Cliff;
•Competency qualifications of Jetstream J32 captain and flight examiner Ross Haverfield found invalid;
•BAe 146 pilot S Dorran, a British citizen without a work permit, flying into Australia without a valid airport identity card. Mr Hughes said such failure to meet strict aviation security rules could jeopardise New Zealand’s reputation and access to international markets.

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