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Pilot killed in NT cattle station helicopter crash had high blood alcohol level and was flying too low, ATSB finds


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I don't know why they insist on adding other factors like low flying when alcohol was involved. Once you've impaired the decision making process the other stuff becomes irrelevant, somewhat like speeding and alcohol. According to a well presented drug and alcohol management lecture presented by a medical professional, decision making is impaired well before you get to the point of physical impairment.

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It's considered normal to drink till the early hours get a couple of hours sleep then head out for a days work, that's what "Real men" do.

 

Really? Well I never encountered that at all in the days when I was mustering, the days were too long and demanding for playing up. And I never met a Cocky or station manager that would have put up with it. You let your hair down at rodeo time.

 

Where did you come acrosss that kind of behaviour SP?

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0.14 BAC over twice the driving limit. A complete fool who paid with his life. Overloaded, CoG out & ELT switched off. No-one is bullet proof. The only good thing about it is that he didn't take anyone out with him

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In my sailing days I once had one stubby of beer and decided I was going to change my anchorage position. Made a complete stuff up of it and went back to where I was before. I just didn't realise how much I could be affected without realising it.

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Really? Well I never encountered that at all in the days when I was mustering, the days were too long and demanding for playing up. And I never met a Cocky or station manager that would have put up with it. You let your hair down at rodeo time.

 

Where did you come acrosss that kind of behaviour SP?

I worked for a contractor in the early 80's, it was considered normal activity. He ran half a dozen 300's and a fixed wing mustering. The bloke I worked for was the first one killed years after when a blade pulled out on his 22. It was considered normal to at least double TBO's. It was also normal to fly 2 months straight every day. The ringers had entrenched behaviour of drinking and it carried through, aerial mustering was no different you were considered a ringer and treated accordingly.

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I worked for a contractor in the early 80's, it was considered normal activity. He ran half a dozen 300's and a fixed wing mustering. The bloke I worked for was the first one killed years after when a blade pulled out on his 22. It was considered normal to at least double TBO's. It was also normal to fly 2 months straight every day. The ringers had entrenched behaviour of drinking and it carried through, aerial mustering was no different you were considered a ringer and treated accordingly.

 

You must have been in a different world from me then. Only bloke I can think of that ran 6x 300s was Chilli at Fitroy Crossing but he wasn't killed in a Robbie, he went on to fly heavies offshore. First one killed by blade separation on a 22, AFAIK was Sean from Broome, but he never had a fleet, let alone 300s.

 

I worked on quite a few stations in the Top End - Qld, NT and WA - and most of them were totally dry, the only drinks and revelry took place on the rodeo weekends. Two of the stations allowed 2 only midstrength beers per day, controlled and distributed by the Cocky - and sacking was instant for anyone who exceeded that. The only exception was Lawn Hill which didn't restrict it, and the Gregory Downs pub was only about 1/2hr away, Burketown about an hour but no-one ever bothered to drink during working camps anyway, with 3.30am starts and back at the homestead or outcamp after dark we were all far too stuffed at the end of the day - the only thing anyone wanted was their swag.

 

Like I said, your world must have been different, somehow. I don't know what you mean by flying "2 months straight every day".

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You must have been in a different world from me then. Only bloke I can think of that ran 6x 300s was Chilli at Fitroy Crossing but he wasn't killed in a Robbie, he went on to fly heavies offshore. First one killed by blade separation on a 22, AFAIK was Sean from Broome, but he never had a fleet, let alone 300s.

 

Sean came from Halls Creek where he owned and ran Halls Creek Air Taxi's, along with the 300's he ran a 172XP for mustering, 206 and Baron for charter and freight. He also took a manager with him when the 22 went down. He was funny bloke to work with, flew very well and good company. When mustering season finished he used to travel, in his office he had a picture of the Mach number in the passenger compartment on a Concorde. He just went from London to New York for something to do. Don't know what happened to him after I left, I did hear his wife Ruth died of brain cancer. Peter Luitineger used to fly for Sean before he went Derby way and set up on his own.

 

 

Like I said, your world must have been different, somehow. I don't know what you mean by flying "2 months straight every day".

I meant flying every day for 2 months straight. It was the late 70's/early 80's, aerial mustering was just starting to get full swing, VRD had a few 47's and the only thing at Kununurra was a flight service and Craig Muir's hangar (Craig was an engineer and was only working on other peoples aircraft). Stewy an old one armed Yank Ag flier had a Pawnee, Kenny Patton had an old A model 300 there as well, there was no tourist industry, the Bungle Bungles were those funny looking hills you used to fly passed going up to Kununurra for maintenance.

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Where awareness, judgement and reaction time MATTER particularly IF you push boundaries already It's a matter of When. not IF you will prang. Nev

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Sean came from Halls Creek where he owned and ran Halls Creek Air Taxi's, along with the 300's he ran a 172XP for mustering, 206 and Baron for charter and freight. He also took a manager with him when the 22 went down. He was funny bloke to work with, flew very well and good company. When mustering season finished he used to travel, in his office he had a picture of the Mach number in the passenger compartment on a Concorde. He just went from London to New York for something to do. Don't know what happened to him after I left, I did hear his wife Ruth died of brain cancer. Peter Luitineger used to fly for Sean before he went Derby way and set up on his own.

 

Ah, thanks, you've filled in a few gaps in my knowledge there, I didn't know about his HC business. I only knew of Sean because when I first set up my small operation it was, by chance, on a site that Sean used when in Broome, on the cliffs above the ocean beach right opposite Malcolm Douglas' crocodile farm, near the (then) new Cable Beach Club. Ruth approached me one day and told me about Sean and how my operation/presence was like a ghost from the past. It was sad.

 

I meant flying every day for 2 months straight. It was the late 70's/early 80's, aerial mustering was just starting to get full swing, VRD had a few 47's and the only thing at Kununurra was a flight service and Craig Muir's hangar (Craig was an engineer and was only working on other peoples aircraft). Stewy an old one armed Yank Ag flier had a Pawnee, Kenny Patton had an old A model 300 there as well, there was no tourist industry, the Bungle Bungles were those funny looking hills you used to fly passed going up to Kununurra for maintenance.

 

More interesting background, thank you. I must have first gone there about 7-8yrs later than you're discussing I guess. Craig had set up Alligator Airways and then developed it quickly and very professionally. Slingsby broke away from VRD and then thought he owned the Kimberley and IMHO everyone's life, including his own, would have been much easier and better if he'd just concentrated on his own business instead of trying to destroy everyone else's. I remember Ken but not what happened to him.

 

Stewy - I was telling a story about him just the other day (well I think it was that particular Stewy) - was he the one who had a 47 and explored an escarpment at Halls believing it held alluvial gold and found a huge nugget, spent too long celebrating in the Halls Ck Hotel and then drove home, tangled with a roadtrain and lost his arm that way?

 

Peter Luitineger is a name I haven't heard in a long time. Always a gentleman in my experience but I only met him a couple of times, I wonder where he ended up?

 

Flight Service - now there's a bit of history from back in the days before user pays. They used to be a good mob at Kun, I saw them grow, blossom and then get shown the highway. At the same time the movements at Kun went from hardly any to lots and then busiest airport by movements in Australia just when they were shut down. Makes sense to somebody I guess.

 

Ah, the exceeding hours thing ... surely not? I'm sure I never came across that sort of thing ...

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The pilot was obviously a complete effwitt and should never have been in the air. I don't just mean that day either, a danger to all given his penchant for constant low flying for no reason but thrills and a bugger the rules attitude.

 

0.14 is pissed and almost 3 times the legal limit for driving and that is after sleep then flying, how drunk was he before taking flight?

The old saying was "eight hours from bottle to throttle, and you write your destiny" and many versions of this have proved correct.

To not consider alcohol as a primary factor in the crash is negligent of the ATSB.

 

The poor passenger may not of died but surely was injured and scarred by it.

 

It is sad he died for all, he should have lived and copped the full force of the law as punishment and deterence for others that might be so reckless and selfish. I hope that a chain of responsibility exists and is prosecuted, if the behaviour was not done in complete secrecy from the employer or representatives. To expect no one in camp etc knew, seems fanciful.

 

It is a longtime since this and what has been done to ensure all the pilots and their employers, contractors etc are fully educated on their responsibility to ensure a safe workplace and the law, not just aviation rules and regs?. It's not like we have no government agencies that can be involved to assist in compliance and ensure the law is prosecuted when needed.

 

I expect they have been badly lashed with a feather and nothing real will change. Just like in mining, acceptable deaths are built into the bottom line.

 

I hope the passenger has recovered.

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The pilot was obviously a complete effwitt and should never have been in the air. I don't just mean that day either, a danger to all given his penchant for constant low flying for no reason but thrills and a bugger the rules attitude.

 

0.14 is pissed and almost 3 times the legal limit for driving and that is after sleep then flying, how drunk was he before taking flight?

The old saying was "eight hours from bottle to throttle, and you write your destiny" and many versions of this have proved correct.

To not consider alcohol as a primary factor in the crash is negligent of the ATSB.

 

The poor passenger may not of died but surely was injured and scarred by it.

 

It is sad he died for all, he should have lived and copped the full force of the law as punishment and deterence for others that might be so reckless and selfish. I hope that a chain of responsibility exists and is prosecuted, if the behaviour was not done in complete secrecy from the employer or representatives. To expect no one in camp etc knew, seems fanciful.

 

It is a longtime since this and what has been done to ensure all the pilots and their employers, contractors etc are fully educated on their responsibility to ensure a safe workplace and the law, not just aviation rules and regs?. It's not like we have no government agencies that can be involved to assist in compliance and ensure the law is prosecuted when needed.

 

I expect they have been badly lashed with a feather and nothing real will change. Just like in mining, acceptable deaths are built into the bottom line.

 

I hope the passenger has recovered.

 

Litespeed, as you know I well repect your opinions.

 

However, as others have pointed out, things ARE different in the bush, and especially when compared with general operations in somewhere like Sydney ...

 

I'm not in any way condoning the alcohol aspect, but as I've said in other posts, that's not something I found to be at all normal in the bush - in this case it seems to have been a serious issue.

 

However - regarding the low flying aspect where you suggest it was for no reason but thrills and deliberate rule breaking - on a station property where locations of hazards are known i.e. power lines etc, it's extremely UNUSUAL to ever fly above about 150ft AGL because every flight involves fence or stock inspection, even if you're on the way or back from town - and low flight is perfectly legal over your own property or property where you have permission - in fact that is your everday job.

 

It has nothing to do with a "bugger the rules attitude". And of course everyone in camp would have known ... that is how the job is done.

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It is quite unfair to accuse mining of acceptable deaths. It’s actions in OHS have been outstandingly successful in my lifetime. And it was the first industry to apply rigorous drug and alcohol testing on sites.

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"...the helicopter’s emergency locator transmitter was selected ‘OFF’, disabling the automatic crash-activation of an emergency signal."

 

 

Is there a reason why this option is even available?

It reminds me of people I've seen deliberately removing their seat belt, as some form of rebellion against perceived oppression.

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Obviously there were a fair few holes in the cheese. (o.14% being a very big one).

It is also noteworthy for us recreational flyers that this was a private operation and therefore more than likely not subject to the same level of scrutiny as an AOC operation.

As private / recreational flyers we are probably less likely to come to the attention of CASA until something goes wrong, and certainly we have no chief pilot to be accountable to ona day to day basis.

With that in mind we should make sure we look at our flying with a critical eye, stay current, be honest with ourselves and de-brief any mistakes we make and not become complacent otherwise we will likely face greater risks and the inevitable scrutiny, and nobody wants that.

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Obviously there were a fair few holes in the cheese. (o.14% being a very big one).

It is also noteworthy for us recreational flyers that this was a private operation and therefore more than likely not subject to the same level of scrutiny as an AOC operation.

As private / recreational flyers we are probably less likely to come to the attention of CASA until something goes wrong, and certainly we have no chief pilot to be accountable to ona day to day basis.

With that in mind we should make sure we look at our flying with a critical eye, stay current, be honest with ourselves and de-brief any mistakes we make and not become complacent otherwise we will likely face greater risks and the inevitable scrutiny, and nobody wants that.

 

If anything Pvt flying at any level is open to riskier behaviour than commercial Ops cause we don't have a CP or a boss to be scared/worried about and some would think they are beyond the laws of common sense and the Regs..

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Litespeed, as you know I well repect your opinions.

 

However, as others have pointed out, things ARE different in the bush, and especially when compared with general operations in somewhere like Sydney ...

 

I'm not in any way condoning the alcohol aspect, but as I've said in other posts, that's not something I found to be at all normal in the bush - in this case it seems to have been a serious issue.

 

However - regarding the low flying aspect where you suggest it was for no reason but thrills and deliberate rule breaking - on a station property where locations of hazards are known i.e. power lines etc, it's extremely UNUSUAL to ever fly above about 150ft AGL because every flight involves fence or stock inspection, even if you're on the way or back from town - and low flight is perfectly legal over your own property or property where you have permission - in fact that is your everday job.

 

It has nothing to do with a "bugger the rules attitude". And of course everyone in camp would have known ... that is how the job is done.

 

 

I may have not explained my view properly. And apologize if it seemed I was implying the low flight was not on.

I know things are very different in the bush and mustering would be on the extreme end of it. I know it's dangerous hard work and yes done at low level and rarely above 150 ft, the natural flying environment. I did not wish to imply that flying sub 150 ft was his sin. I should have said he was not a suitable type of pilot for the job, as his complete lack of following the basics of flight prep, flight plan , been massively drunk, knowingly taking a passenger in that state etc. Not to mention turning off the locator beacon, would clearly make him someone who does not follow rules, regs or even common sense and felt no responsibility for others safety.

 

 

 

He was clearly a danger to himself and others, both passenger and those working below him. No one, even on a muster should suffer such a pilot and allow that.

 

He had bugger the rules attitude and even though obviously had a level of skill to operate a chopper, he demonstrated he was not fit and proper for the job. I can only imply from his actions, he was a thrill seeker who felt he was invincible.

 

What I meant by the "camp must have known", was about the pilot been able to get so pissed the night before and be flying mere hours later when he was still very drunk. That by any definition is not a safe workplace and I don't imagine acceptable to even the most freedom loving musterer. I know many a stockman might feel a bit hung over and jump on a bike or in a 4wd etc but a heavily drunk pilot in a chopper is like Russian roulette and full chambers. I like a cold beer after work and begrudge no one a cold one, or more as along as you behave and are suitable for work next day, but flying and drinking should be always separate.

 

I did not wish to imply the low level ops by their nature where the issue, that is just a essential part of the job that is inherently dangerous. I have great respect and admiration for chopper pilots esp in the harsh farm environment. It's a hard life and I take my hat off to them, same as the rest of the camp workers.

 

My comments above workplace deaths and mining were not about just alcohol and drug testing, which is a necessary thing and generally appropriate but more about the companies see safety as a cost analysis issue. What's cheapest and what's easiest to ignore often wins the day and safety including for the environmental and social effects always become low orders of priority.

Not all are the same, just like any other industry some are good and some are terrible.

 

Clear skies and tailwinds.

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"...the helicopter’s emergency locator transmitter was selected ‘OFF’, disabling the automatic crash-activation of an emergency signal."

 

 

Is there a reason why this option is even available?

It reminds me of people I've seen deliberately removing their seat belt, as some form of rebellion against perceived oppression.

It is my understanding that in a harsh environment sometimes ELTs have problems with being activated inadvertently.

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The drinking culture is still strong in NT.

 

It sure is! I did a few weeks stint contract flying two years ago in Darwin and got to know a few pilots, man could they drink!

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