Matt Stewart at Stuff reports:
Carterton balloon crash pilot Lance Hopping should not have been flying the day he and 10 passengers died, a damning report by the Civil Aviation Authority reveals.
The health and safety report shows Mr Hopping’s medical certificate had expired about six weeks before the fatal flight. He should not have been piloting a commercial aircraft.
At 7.22am on January 7 last year, the balloon burst into flames after hitting a power line, then crashed into a paddock just north of Carterton, killing Mr Hopping and his 10 passengers, including two who jumped or fell from the basket.
It has not been revealed how many other flights he piloted after his medical certificate lapsed. The six weeks covered Christmas and New Year, which are usually busy times for ballooning.
That’s very bad, especially considering Hopping was the current of former President of Ballooning industry body.
In May, an interim report by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission showed toxicology tests on Mr Hopping’s body four days after the crash proved positive for cannabis.
The CAA report says Mr Hopping had time to activate the safety valve at the top of the balloon, which allows for a quick but controlled descent, but did not do so. It finds that he failed to meet his obligations under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, and those failures contributed to the accident.
“The balloon had on-board safety features, including a rapid deflation system and a parachute valve, but there was no evidence that the passengers were ever briefed on their use, and in the event, they were never deployed,” CAA director Graeme Harris said this week.
“Insufficient communication between the balloon and the ground crew, particularly during the landing phase of the flight, was also cited as a contributing factor.”
I initially though the accident was a freak unavoidable event. Sadly it seems it was not.
The CAA website is horrific for finding info. I’m not sure if the report is online or not. Can anyone locate it?