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General Media Incompetence On Matters Aviation

24/11/2009

On the 18th of November a Westwind Jet (VH-NGA) ditched just off Norfolk Island. The aircraft, owned  by Australian company Pel-Air was operating a Careflight medical evacuation from Apia to Melbourne.

VH-NGA, now sitting on the ocean floor

There are numerous serious issues surrounding the fate of this flight. All of these issues will hopefully be dealt with by the investigation that will be run by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). Without commenting on the issues already in the public domain the most hideous aspect of this accident has been the treatment it has received in the media. Essentially the coverage it has garnered proves just how vapid and pathetic the general media have become.

The Chairman of Pel-Air is former Australian Transport Minister John Sharp, obviously well versed in the art of media management. Before any of the facts came to light the Captain of the aircraft was being hailed as a ‘hero’ in the same vein as the Captain Sully who landed the Airbus A320 in New York’s Hudson River at the beginning of the year. The two examples of ditching could not be further apart but the general media does not have time for proper reporting – that takes time and money. Much was made of the Captain’s status as a former CLEO bachelor of the year in an effort no doubt to sex up the story. Perversely, the media have built this Captain up so much that his eventual fall from media grace will make quite the story I’m sure.

Naturally the real hero in this accident, the Manager of the Norfolk Island Airport who launched a rescue boat in challenging conditions at night with no knowledge of the location of the aircraft has garnered little attention. Surely he is probably happy with that but his efforts should be praised.

As a pilot it does feel harsh to be insinuating that the Captain is not a hero in this instance. However, information already available from the first-hand accounts is unfortunately suggesting that the accident resulted because of poor decision-making – the major function of a pilot-in-command. As with any accident the Capitan is not alone in this, there appears to be serious organisational issues and Pel-Air have suffered 2 prior accidents in Westwind aircraft. As I said all will hopefully be dealt with by the ATSB investigation but the media have done the Captain nor the general public no favours in building up the story as they have.

Reckless and irresponsible.

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