In this Jan. 4, 2018, photo provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), wreckage of a seaplane is lifted from a river north of Sydney. The owner of the seaplane that crashed near Sydney during a New Year’s Eve joy flight, killing the Canadian pilot and his five British passengers, says that flight path was not authorized according to a preliminary report released Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. (ATSB via AP)

Route of seaplane that left B.C. man, 5 others dead wasn’t authorized: report

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff as it was climbing for a flight south to Sydney

The owner of a seaplane that crashed near Sydney during a New Year’s Eve joy flight, killing a B.C. pilot and his five British passengers, said Wednesday that flight path was not authorized and the pilot’s final manoeuvr was inexplicable.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau on Wednesday released a preliminary report on its investigation into the cause of the crash into the Hawkesbury River. It rules out a bird strike, contaminated fuel and the plane breaking up in flight as possibilities, and while it does not suggest any likely cause of the crash it does say the flight path is part of the ongoing investigation.

Killed were Compass Group chief executive Richard Cousins, 58, his fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, her 11-year-old daughter Heather Bowden-Page and his two sons William, 25, and Edward, 23, along with experienced pilot Gareth Morgan, 44 from North Vancouver.

Sydney Seaplanes chief executive Aaron Shaw said in response to the report that its key question was why the plane was flying in a bay surrounded by steep terrain that had no exit.

“It is not a route we authorize in our Landing and Take Off Area Register and the plane simply should not have been where it was,” Shaw said in a statement.

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff as it was climbing for a flight south to Sydney following a restaurant lunch.

The report cites eyewitnesses saying the plane suddenly entered a steep right turn before the nose dropped. The plane hit the water in a near-vertical dive, the report said.

Shaw questioned why a pilot with more than 10,000 hours of flying experience would enter an 80-to-90-degree bank angle turn, as witnesses described in the report.

“A turn of this nature at low altitude by a pilot with Gareth’s skills, experience and intimate knowledge of the location is totally inexplicable,” Shaw said.

Crash investigators later likened the flight path to a motorist turning into a dead-end street instead of on to a freeway, and said the plane would have struggled to climb above the bay’s terrain.

“We don’t have a preferred theory at this stage as to why he went off course,” the bureau’s executive director Nat Nagy told journalists after the report was released.

“What we are trying to ascertain is whether this was part of his normal operation to have gone up there. The information we have indicates that it is not,” Nagy added.

The de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver was built in 1963 and had an earlier fatal crash in 1996 while operating as a crop duster in rural Australia. That investigation found that the pilot likely stalled the plane, which was laden with a full tank of fuel and more than a ton of fertilizer in turbulent wind conditions.

The Transport Safety Board of Canada in September recommended that Canada make stall warning systems compulsory for Beaver planes after six people died during a sightseeing flight over Quebec in 2015.

The Australian report said the investigation will consider the issue of stall warning systems. The plane that crashed on Dec. 31 was not equipped with such a device, which are not compulsory in Australia. The plane was also not required to carry cockpit voice or flight data recorders, widely known as black boxes.

Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Budget cuts at Kwantlen Polytechnic will mean larger classes

President of Kwantlen faculty association says administration salaries are going up

Fraser Valley Thunderbirds take silver in finals of new minor midget hockey league

Team of mostly Langley players will have a new look in the second season

Langley tutor lauded on ice

Sylvia Lloyd was recognized for the work she does – paid and unpaid – helping tutor children.

Trappers on brink of elimination after third loss

“We’ve got to play desperate hockey’ coach of Langley hockey team says

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

In pre-election budget, Liberals boost infrastructure cash to cities, broadband

The budget document says the Liberals have approved more than 33,000 projects, worth about $19.9 billion in federal financing

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

Teacher reprimanded after incident with Grade 11 student in school gym

Gregory Norman Brock was teaching at a high school in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

Avalanche control tomorrow on Highway 1

Expect closures of up to two hours east of Revelstoke

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Most Read