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Joy flight tragedy causes narrowed down

A Tiger Moth joy flight ended in tragedy on 16 December 2013 following a crash into water off the coast of South Stradbroke Island. The crash killed both the pilot and passenger. The experienced operator from the Gold Coast, Tiger Moth Joy Rides, performs joy flights and aerobatic thrill rides for passengers with the classic 1940 DH-82 aircraft.

The aircraft which was destroyed (registration VH-TSG) was one of three Tiger Moths owned and operated by the company, and one of 210 registered in Australia at the time of the accident. The classic biplanes are a favourite Australia-wide for joy flights due to their open cockpits, and the capacity to conduct aerobatic manoeuvres of up to 3G.

Commercial joy flights typically fall within a different legal liability regime to “negligence” actions and Commonwealth law applied through state legislation serves to provide a (statutory) compensatory legal remedy. Such flights are often “charter” flights - ie, a flight which is a “commercial transport operation”, performed under a “charter licence” within the meaning given to those terms in Part IV of the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959 (Cth).

On the 24th of February 2014 the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released a Preliminary Aviation Accident Investigation Report into the crash which noted that the fixings which join the lower wings to the fuselage of the aircraft fractured at areas of significant, pre-existing fatigue cracking (a threaded section of the lateral “tie rods”). The relevant tie rods were manufactured under an Australian Parts Manufacturing Approval (JRA-776-1).

The ATSB is yet to determine whether the failure of these rods imitated the left wing’s separation from the aircraft in the accident, but did advise of the safety issue to other Tiger Moth operators to be aware of such fatigue cracking. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) recently requested detailed information about the particular tie rods from Tiger Moth operators so as to conduct a risk assessment before taking regulatory action (eg, issuing an “Airworthiness Directive”) for operators to conduct inspections of wing spars and tie rods.

The ATSB expects to publish its final report by December 2014.


Accompanying image from Paul Hudson, used under the following license. Image modified from it's original state.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: September 7, 2017.

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