Mental health not factor
A Wanaka pilot’s mental health was not a factor in a Queenstown helicopter crash that killed two people in 2015, an inquiry has found.
The investigation was reopened on August 31 last year after the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) received new evidence about Stephen Anthony Nicholson Combe’s concerning mental health the year before the crash.
The 42-year-old instructor and his student, James Louis Patterson Gardner, 18, were killed when the Robinson R44 they were flying crashed near Queenstown on February 19, 2015.
The helicopter, which was operated by Over The Top, was found in remote bush in the Lochy River basin.
‘‘It is very likely that the instructor was medically fit to fly when his most recent medical certificate was issued,’’ TAIC‘s report said.
However, in the report the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was advised to review medical application processes for pilots.
There were ‘‘too many ways’’ to dodge the CAA process that prevented medically unfit pilots from flying, it said.
‘‘There is currently a low awareness amongst medical practitioners of their duty to report to the Civil Aviation Authority if they become aware that a pilot has developed a medical condition that would otherwise render them unfit to fly.’’
The commission recommended CAA improve mechanisms for doctors reporting to it and review its medical application process ‘‘to ensure that it is more robust in identifying potentially serious health issues with pilots and other aviation document holders’’.
Over The Top owner Louisa Patterson’s only son died in the crash. She said she was not aware of Combe’s medical history.
‘‘Steve Combe at all times, whilst in his employment with our company, was observed as highly professional, competent and fit to fly.
‘‘Had there been any concerns regarding his fit and proper person status he would not have been entrusted with flying my clients or my son.’’
The design of Robinson helicopters was a ‘‘significant issue’’ that had to be addressed, Patterson said.
‘‘Had our boys have been in any other aircraft type, this crash would not have happened,’’ she said.
A pilot’s mental health was not considered a factor in a helicopter crash that killed two people in 2015.