Re: New ground proximity warning.

Date:         27 Dec 96 04:41:06 
From:         don@rata.vuw.ac.nz (Don Stokes)
Organization: Victoria University of Wellington
References:   1 2 3 4
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In article <airliners.1996.2847@ohare.chicago.com>,
Craig Welch <craig@pacific.net.sg> wrote:
>dmarble@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu (Duane F Marble) wrote:
>> I seem to recall
>>that the New Zealand sightseeing crash in Antartica some years ago
>>arose out of bad terrain data
>
>The Royal Commissioner said:
>
>"In my  opinion ... the single dominant and effective cause of the
>disaster was the mistake made by those airline officials who
>programmed the aircraft to fly directly at Mount Erebus and omitted to
>tell the aircrew. That mistake is directly attributable, not so much
>to the persons who made it, but to the incompetent administrative
>airline procedures, which made the mistake possible.
>
>In my opinion, neither Captain Collins nor the flight engineers made
>any error which contributed to the disaster, and were not responsible
>for is occurrence."

This is disputed.  Collins made one fatal mistake, and that was to descend
below the height of the local high terrain without establishing for
certain where he was in relation to that high terrain.  If he had made
the right decision, ie to stay above the height of Mt Erebus until he'd
made some kind of fix on his position, obtained radio help or given up
and gone home, the accident would not have happened.  Air NZ would still
have been faced with recriminations of a spoiled pleasure flight had he
turned back, but the crew and passengers would have been alive.

There is another factor, and that's that the flight crew shouldn't have
been there in the first place.  Neither pilot had been near the ice
before, in strict contravention of ICAO rules.  If they had either could
have looked down and figured out that they weren't where they were
supposed to be.  They were also ill equiped with regards to charts.  All
of this is stuff Civil Aviation should have been leaning on Air NZ about,
but didn't.

Geoff Roberts, chairman of Air NZ until 1975 (the Erebus accident was in
1979) comments in his biography that at least part of the problem was
that Civil Aviation was taking the attitude that Air NZ was big enough to
look after itself.  CAA had been pushed into a small corner of the
Ministry of Transport and was unable to effectively challenge Air NZ.

>Air New Zealand officials lied their butts off at the hearings,
>causing the Commissioner to make the following comments:
>
>"The palpably false sections of evidence which I heard could not have
>been the result of mistake, or faulty recollection. They originated, I
>am compelled to say, in a predetermined plan of deception. They were
>very clearly part of an attempt to conceal a series of disastrous
>administrative blunders and so, in regard to the particular items of
>evidence to which I have referred, I am forced reluctantly to say that
>I had to listen to an orchestrated litany of lies."

As is always in air accidents, there is more than one cause, and Air NZ
certainly did behave rather badly over their part in the accident.  But
bad information was supplimented by bad crew selection and training and
then a poor decision by that crew.  At the end of the day, it wasn't Air
NZ management, nor the CAA who were in the flight deck of a perfectly
fuctioning DC-10 that was flown into a mountain because the pilot failed
to reconcile his INS position with the terrain.

--
Don Stokes, Network Manager, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
don@vuw.ac.nz(work) don@zl2tnm.gen.nz(home) +64 4 495-5052 Fax+64 4 471-5386