The Director of Civil Aviation Graeme Harris has suspended the airworthiness certificates of all 21 Gippsland GA8 Airvan aircraft currently operating in New Zealand.
“I have sufficient concerns about the safety of these aircraft to make it necessary for me to ground them until more is known about the cause of the 14 July crash in Sweden that killed all nine people on board a GA8 Airvan,” says Graeme.
The airworthiness certificates were suspended by Graeme on Saturday July 21.
Nine people died on Sunday July 14 when a GippsAero GA8 Airvan, a single engine plane popular with skydivers, crashed in northern Sweden soon after taking off. The plane was carrying the group for a parachute jump and none of the nine people on board the aircraft survived.
“We do not take these steps lightly but when there is a reasonable doubt about the safety of an aircraft, the flying public, operators and pilots of the affected aircraft in New Zealand must be satisfied that the CAA will act with their safety as a priority,” says Graeme.
“Whilst I regret any inconvenience this grounding will cause and acknowledge its significant commercial impact; I simply cannot compromise when I have information that indicates any unacceptable risk.”
In NZ there are ten aviation operators affected by this action, with fleet sizes ranging from one to up to four of these aircraft. The GA8 is primarily used in NZ on tourist flightseeing operations, with some commuter usage.
Some of the NZ operators affected conduct their flights around places such as Mount Cook. They are also used on the Queenstown to Milford route.
“I have been in contact with my Australian counterpart at Civil Aviation Safety Authority – CASA - as the GA8 is Australian-manufactured and they are the designated state of design and manufacture,” says Graeme.
The GA8 is manufactured in Australia by GippsAero, which is based in the Latrobe Valley.
“I understand that CASA has sent a technical specialist to Sweden to gain first-hand insight into the progress of the crash investigation.
“Based on information coming out of the initial investigation into the crash it appears that the aeroplane, at 4,000 meters altitude, suffered structural failure, but, at this time, the root cause of the accident cannot be confirmed,” says Graeme.
He says the grounding was effective immediately from Saturday and would be continuously reviewed as further information becomes available from Sweden and Australia.
There are 63 GA8 aircraft registered in Australia out of a world-wide fleet of 228. The GA8 is a single engine high wing aeroplane with fixed tricycle landing gear. In Australia the GA8 is used in a range of operations including charter, aerial work and parachuting.
Graeme also said that CAA staff had spent Saturday afternoon making contact with each of the ten organisations operating the aircraft in New Zealand to let them know about the suspension.