CAA critical of dead pilot after copping it in report

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A deceased Queenstown pilot has been criticised by the Civil Aviation Authority after an official report into the Fox Glacier skydiving plane crash that killed nine. 

Chaminda Senadhira, 33, died along with four other crew and four tourists when the Fletcher FU24 plane crashed on take-off in September 2010. 

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission report, released yesterday, concludes the plane, which had been modified from a crop duster three months earlier, had too much weight towards the rear. 

This caused it to rise sharply at a speed that was too slow to be controllable. 

TAIC investigator Ian McClelland criticises the CAA for its inadequate oversight of the adventure tourism industry. 

It also blames the plane’s owners, Skydive New Zealand, and concludes Senadhira failed to carry out proper pre-
flight weight and balance checks. 

CAA director Graeme Harris admits the CAA at the time did not regulate skydiving closely enough but focused on pilot error. 

“This is basic airmanship, taught to every student pilot,” Harris says in a statement. 

“It is very sad that a critical element of pre-flight planning, which should be second nature to any pilot, appears to have been done so poorly. 

“This is an accident no pilot should ever forget.” 

The report found modifications to the plane were poorly managed and discrepancies in the documents weren’t identified by CAA when it approved them. 

The TAIC made six recommendations to CAA, many of which have already been covered by the new CAA rules for aviation adventure tourism. 

Glenorchy-based Senadhira gained his commercial pilot’s licence in 2002 and accrued 4554 flying hours. A member of Wakatipu Aero Club, he was considered an experienced, competent and well-liked pilot.