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Aerodrome fatalities: The need for controls


“I think if Craig was still alive, his thoughts would be that he doesn’t ever want to see anything like this happen again.”
These were the words of Masterton councillor David Holmes, a friend of pilot Craig McBride who died in a mid-air collision of two aircraft in June 2019 near Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome.
The other pilot who died was Joshua Christensen.
Holmes’ sentiment was shared at this week’s Masterton District Council Audit and Risk Committee meeting, where elected members discussed the findings of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission’s [TAIC] Inquiry into the crash.
The TAIC inquiry found one pilot was flying a non-standard and non-compliant join to the circuit, and this was how they had been instructed to join.
Local pilots were aware of the non-standard join, which had become accepted practice at the aerodrome.
The inquiry also found that non-certificated aerodromes [such as Hood Aerodrome], and aerodrome managers did not have the same level of regulatory oversight and support as certificated aerodromes.
Hood Aerodrome is owned and managed by Masterton District Council [MDC].
Holmes, who was “great friends” with McBride and his family, said McBride would never want to see anything like this happen again.
“In the report, this sums it up: The passive acceptance of the non-compliant behaviour, the absence of proactive safety reporting, and the resistance to adopting an aerodrome SMS [Safety Management System] indicate that the safety culture of Masterton was deficient.”
Fellow councillor Craig Bowyer, who is a pilot and is on the Hood Aerodrome Strategic Advisory Group, said the crash was possibly the outcome of “behaviour creep” where over time, unofficial behaviours become normalised.
“This is something that has possibly happened in this situation.
“Since then, the council straight away shut down the ability to use that other runway.
“It was a tragic accident, make no mistake about that.
“However, a lot of pilots have taken it on board.
“To lose a member of the local flying community … I think we can rest assured that the report and findings have hit home and have changed behaviours.”
Councillor Tom Hullena, who knew both pilots involved in the crash, said it was good to note that aerodrome users now had “a greater awareness and understanding of the appropriate patterns in the air”.
“It seems to me that over time, that’s likely to decrease if there is not a constant ongoing management of that group.”
He asked what the council’s responsibility was in influencing aerodrome safety culture.
MDC community facilities and activities manager Corin Haines said he believed the council’s responsibility was “huge”.
“We need to continue to drive that safety culture, and implementing a Safety Management System is part of that.
“We will continue to drive and roll that out.”
A draft Safety Management System manual has been completed and is awaiting MDC approval for implementation.
Councillor Tim Nelson said there seemed to be “a culture of doing things a little bit differently in an unstaffed place” compared to manned aerodromes.
“Surely people need to follow the exact rules.
“It needs to be so standardised in an unmanned place.”
A court case is ongoing regarding the plane crash, but details were not shared at the council meeting.
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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