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ATSB conducts fresh survey of ditched Pel-Air jet

written by WOFA | April 24, 2015

The Pel-Air Westwind corporate jet at the bottom of the ocean off Norfolk Island. (ATSB)
The Pel-Air Westwind corporate jet at the bottom of the ocean off Norfolk Island. (ATSB)

Specialist divers from the NSW Police Force and Australian Federal Police have conducted a fresh survey of the Pel-Air corporate jet that was ditched off the coast of Norfolk Island in 2009 as part of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) new investigation into the crash.

The ATSB said on Friday the underwater survey was conducted over two days on March 28/29 and discovered the wreckage of the corporate jet VH-NGA was still at its last recorded position about 4.5km west of Norfolk Island and submerged about 48 metres of water.

In an update on its website, the ATSB said the tail section of the fuselage containing the flight recorders was partially buried by the movement of sand, while both wings, both engines and the rear section of the fuselage and tail were still attached.

“As part of the re-opened investigation the ATSB is taking all reasonable steps to recover the flight recorders from the accident aircraft and download and analyse the data from them,” the ATSB said.

“The information obtained from this latest underwater survey will be used to assist the ATSB in its planning and assessment of options for the next phase of the project to recover the recorders.”

The Westwind corporate jet was conducting an aeromedical flight from Apia, Samoa to Melbourne when crashed near Norfolk Island after running out of fuel.

The ATSB report into the 2009 incident cited errors by the flightcrew and found the pilot in command of the aircraft Dominic James did not plan the flight in accordance with regulatory and operator requirements.


However, the ATSB investigation was the subject of a scathing assessment by a Senate committee which found, among other things, that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) withheld a number of documents critical of Pel-Air. A Four Corners investigation also highlighted serious flaws in the way the investigation was conducted.

In December, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss sought a fresh look at the 2009 crash after a Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) review found the ATSB did not follow proper process and had poor oversight during its original investigation into incident.

“The main focus of the re-opened investigation to date has been the review of documentation requested from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the operator and other organisations, as well as interviewing a number of personnel from these organisations,” the ATSB said.

“These activities are ongoing.”

Some annotated images from the ATSB:

The Pel-Air Westwind corporate jet at the bottom of the ocean off Norfolk Island. (ATSB)
Figure one showing the wing and engines. (ATSB)
The Pel-Air Westwind corporate jet at the bottom of the ocean off Norfolk Island. (ATSB)
A second image of the submerged jet. (ATSB)
The Pel-Air Westwind corporate jet at the bottom of the ocean off Norfolk Island. (ATSB)
A third image from the March 28/29 survey. (ATSB)


  • Ben


    Fair enough to re-open the investigation but I want to know two things:

    1) What useful information do Xenophon et al think will be retrieved from the flight recorders that is not already known to the ATSB, and;
    2) How much will this retrieval cost.

  • Anthony B


    Ben – I think no matter if the recorders provide new information or not a thorough investigation should always explore all available information no matter what the cost. The fact that they didn’t recover all the information only highlights that the investigation was open and shut very quickly which should never be done. If the recorders are recoverable on any aircrash no matter how small or large the incident then it should be done

  • Evan


    Agree with Anthony. It should have been done at the time… if only to ‘cover off’. Having said that, I thought the 4 Corners program was deficient in not examining the question posed by Ben. By omission, the program left the viewer with the impression that the recorders might be key to the whole thing and therefore implied an apparent lack of concern by the ATSB regarding the retrieval of vital information.

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