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Pilots query watchdog over charity flights

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The transport safety watchdog will face scrutiny about its investigation of a plane crash that killed three people, which led it to question the safety record of a charity flight organisation.

Experienced pilots have accused the Australian Transport Safety Bureau of cherry-picking data and using “astonishingly inaccurate statistics” in its assessment of the poor safety record of Angel Flight.

ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood, Angel Flight’s management and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority will come under scrutiny from senators during a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday.

Last month, in reporting on a 2017 fatal crash on an Angel Flight “mission”, the ATSB said the charity that pairs sick people in regional areas with volunteer pilots willing to fly them to medical appointments had a safety record seven times worse than other private flights.

But in submissions to the inquiry, three experienced pilots have rubbished the investigation.

They say the safety watchdog seemed eager to blame the organisation rather than the pilot who had less than three years’ experience and wasn’t qualified to fly in foggy conditions on the day.

“I cannot hide my disappointment in the ATSB findings,” Shaun Aisen – who says he’s Angel Flight’s most active volunteer – writes in his submission.

“It would seem that the specific report … has been a direct attack on Angel Flight, and not about the pilot errors that occurred.”

He accuses the watchdog of going on a witch hunt and using statistics that he says don’t compare like with like, to the detriment of the ATSB’s reputation and integrity.

Former Queensland coalition minister Howard Hobbs – now a director of the Australian Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association – said if the existing rules about the conditions in which pilots can fly had been followed, the accident would not have happened.

With AAP

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