Pilots’ lack of experience in night flying major reason for crash – TAIC


Inexperience and inadequate supervision were major factors in a fatal night flight that killed two pilots, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission says.

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A plane similar to the one that crashed, killing the two pilots in March 2019. Photo: 123RF


The senior flying instructors crashed into the Kaimanawa hills] when they turned their four-seat Diamond DA42 plane away from its planned route from Palmerston North to Taupō in March 2019.

The commission’s report said that the pilot dipped the plane below the area’s specified minimum safe altitude – which is calculated to avoid the hills and obstacles in an area – before it crashed.

It said the pair lacked experience in navigating at night and a planning weakness saw the pilot self-authorise their own flight path without the supervision they needed.

The pilot was licensed and rated to fly at night using the needed instruments for navigation.

“However, both the pilot and the safety pilot had little experience in navigating at night under instrument flight rules,” the commission found.

“They were therefore subject to an increased level of supervision by the operator until they gained more experience.

“The commission found that the aeroplane was equipped with a terrain proximity awareness capability, but that it was very likely not used by the pilot.”

The TAIC said there were three key things pilots and training schools could learn from its report:

  • That pilots, especially instructor pilots, should be fully aware of the parameters prescribed by the civil aviation rules, including for navigating away from pre-planned and instrument flight rules ensure
  • approved flight routes

  • Where possible, pilots should use and be proficient in the full capabilities of the flight instrumentation systems available to them. In this case, thorough training in the use of onboard ground-proximity conflict and warning systems, including the dimming of instrument and cockpit lights at night, would have enhanced situational awareness
  • Flight training schools should make certain that their procedures are sufficiently robust to ensure that pilots can only conduct training flights after obtaining appropriate authorisation and supervision

The commission found no evidence that a malfunction of or unserviceability with the aeroplane, or any medical issue, contributed to the accident.

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