2010 New Zealand Fletcher FU24 crash
An FU24 similar to the accident aircraft
|Date||4 September 2010|
|Summary||Incorrect loading and improper maintenance|
|Site||Fox Glacier Aerodrome, New Zealand
|Aircraft type||Fletcher FU24|
|Operator||Skydive New Zealand|
|Flight origin||Fox Glacier Airstrip|
|Destination||Fox Glacier Airstrip|
The 2010 New Zealand Fletcher FU24 crash occurred on 4 September 2010. A parachuting flight operating at Fox Glacier Aerodrome, New Zealand crashed shortly after take-off, killing all nine people on board.
The aircraft was a Fletcher FU24, a type manufactured in New Zealand and usually used for aerial topdressing. The accident aircraft had been modified in 1998 by replacing the original piston engine with a Walter M601 turboprop engine. After being purchased by Skydive New Zealand in early 2010, the aircraft was further modified to carry out parachuting operations and re-entered service in this configuration on 4 July, two months before the accident.
The pilot had already completed nine parachuting operations that day, before stopping for lunch. At 1:20pm (local time, UTC+12), after the aircraft was refuelled with about 160 litres of fuel, the pilot and passengers - four skydiving instructors and four tourists - boarded the aircraft.
Eyewitnesses reported the aircraft's take-off roll appeared to be normal, but after lifting off the ground it continued pitching upwards until it was almost vertical. At around 350 feet, the aircraft rolled to the left so the nose was pointing down, and dived towards the ground. The aircraft was observed to be pulling out of the dive, but impacted with the ground at 1:25pm at an almost vertical angle and burst into flames, killing all nine on board.
The pilot and three of the instructors were New Zealanders; the other instructor and one of the tourists were Australian; the other three tourists were an Irishman, an Englishman and a young German woman. It was the worst aircraft crash in New Zealand in 17 years.
Aftermath and investigation
Weather conditions over the area initially delayed the investigators making their way to the crash site. The accident investigators calculated the aircraft's take-off weight based on standard weights for the passengers (that is, without using the actual weight of each passenger) and determined that the aircraft's Maximum Takeoff Weight had been exceeded at the time of the accident. They found that the flight manual for the Fletcher FU24 did not cover loading the aircraft with passengers for skydiving operations. The investigators also determined that, based on standard passenger weights (70 kg each) and the procedure normally used by the operator for loading passengers in the aircraft, the aircraft's centre of gravity (CofG) was outside the aft limit before the take-off commenced. A week after the crash, on 11 September the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority issued an emergency airworthiness directive (AD), applicable to all FU24s engaged in parachuting operations. The AD limits the number of people that can be carried in the rear of the aircraft; and requires accurate determination of passenger weights and of the CofG.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) investigated the accident, and released its final report on 9 May 2012. It recommended tightened regulation of centre-of-gravity calculations, change of use modifications and parachute pilot monitoring.
10-009R Addendum to Final Report AO-2010-009: Walter Fletcher FU24, ZK-EUF loss of control on take-off and impact with terrain, Fox Glacier aerodrome, South Westland, 4 September 2010. This TAIC report states that it is 99% certain that weight and balance did not cause the crash. No cause has so far been identified.
- TAIC Interim Report, page vi
- "Investigation begins into NZ plane crash". smh.com.au. 5 September 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- "Interim Factual Report 10-009 – Walter Fletcher FU24, ZK-EUF, loss of control on take-off, Fox Glacier, South Westland, 4 September 2010" (pdf). Transport Accident Investigation Commission. 11 November 2010. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
- "Victims of New Zealand skydive plane crash named". BBC News. 5 September 2010. Archived from the original on 4 September 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- TAIC Interim Report, page 2
- TAIC Interim Report, page 3
- TAIC Interim Report, page 1
- Sinclair, Joe (5 September 2010). "Briton killed in New Zealand plane crash named". independent. London. Archived from the original on 6 September 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- "Nine dead as plane crashes in fireball - stuff.co.nz". 5 September 2010. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
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- "Investigation begins into fatal New Zealand plane crash". news.com.au. 5 September 2010. Archived from the original on 19 September 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- New Zealand CAA Airworthiness Directive Number DCA/FU24/179 "Parachuting Operations – Limitation and C of G Determination". Retrieved 13 September 2010
- "Final Report Aviation inquiry 10-009 Walter Fletcher FU24, ZK-EUF loss of control on take-off and impact with terrain Fox Glacier aerodrome, South Westland 4 September 2010". Transport Accident Investigation Commission. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2012.