Plane that killed Aussies was badly loaded

A report on a skydiving plane crash which killed nine people including two Australians in 2010 has criticised the plane's owners and aviation regulators.

The Fletcher FU24-954 plane, carrying four tourists, four tandem jumpers and a pilot, had too much weight in the rear when it tried to take off on September 4, 2010, causing it to rise sharply at too low a speed to be controllable.

The Australians who died were Glenn Bourke, 18, from the Melbourne suburb of Coburg, and dive master Adam Bennett, 47, who had been living in the South Island town of Motueka.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) investigator Ian McClelland says oversight of the adventure aviation industry by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was inadequate.

The plane was modified from a topdressing plane earlier in 2010 but this was poorly managed and discrepancies in the documents were not picked up by CAA when it approved them.

"The CAA lost the opportunity to correct the company's errors," McClelland told a media conference.

He said parachuting had increased "and the rules have been slow to keep up".

He said a new rule regulating the sector made a big difference.

"I myself would quite happily go parachuting today."


CAA director Graeme Harris says that although the pilot did not meet a basic element of good airmanship, it had not regulated the parachuting sector closely enough at the time.

"In the intervening year and a half the regulatory landscape controlling these operations has been transformed."

Mr McClelland said all of the 74 previous flights the plane made with eight parachuters would have had too much weight towards the rear of the aircraft, but the imbalance on the flight that crashed was the worst it had ever been.

When asked if it was an accident waiting to happen, Mr McClelland agreed.

The other tourists who died were Patrick Byrne, 26, of Ireland, Annita Kirsten, 23, of Germany, and Brad Coker, 24, of England.

The other crew who died were Skydive New Zealand director Rod Miller, 55, pilot Chaminda Senadhira, 33, Michael Suter, 32, and Christopher McDonald, 62.