Three men died and one was seriously injured when the RNZAF
Iroquois helicopter crashed near Pukerua Bay. Photo / Mark
Three airmen killed in an Anzac Day helicopter crash were
on a one-hour flight in pre-dawn darkness partly because it was
considered too expensive to accommodate them in a hotel the
previous night, says a leaked report.
The doomed flight on the morning of April 25, 2010, would not
have taken place if the crew had flown to Wellington, for
dawn services, the day before.
Instead, the air force Iroquois helicopter, one of three
flying in formation, took off from Manawatu early on Anzac
Day, with the crew using night vision goggles - something for
which they were later found to have been inadequately
The helicopter crashed at 5.49am, 36 minutes into the flight,
killing three men and seriously injuring another.
The air force's internal accident analysis report says: "The
need to minimise accommodation costs incurred by 3 Squadron
due to pressure on the accommodation budget was recognised
and contributed to the ... decision (not to fly the day
The Defence Force uses the Amora Hotel in Wellington, which
last night had rooms available for $149 each.
The report cited training problems with instrument flying and
night vision goggles.
It found there were no instructor manuals or guides because
of "resourcing" issues.
This was "common with most RNZAF flying units".
The report said four of the six pilots in the three
helicopters did not have adequate flying qualifications for
the flight, and the lead pilot was not qualified to lead the
It found widespread problems throughout the air force which
meant it was unable to "adequately and reliably ensure safe
and effective military air operations".
The report found knowledge of problems went to the top of the
The Chief of Air Force at the time of the accident, Air
Vice-Marshal Graham Lintott, was last year promoted to be New
Zealand's defence attache in Washington.
Wellington Airport rules restricting flights arriving or
taking off before 6am were also cited as a factor, although
the report said "permission could have been sought" for such
The emergence of hotel costs as a factor in the accident led
to calls last night for Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman to
Labour defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said: "National's
cost-cutting is clearly a factor in this tragedy, and the
minister needs to be held accountable for that.
"It is abhorrent that air force personnel felt under such
extreme pressure to save money they were willing to
compromise safety to save $600." That figure is based on the
cost of rooms for four crew members.
Green Party defence spokesman Kennedy Graham said the NZDF
needed to give a public assurance over the safety of its
"Obviously service in the defence force comes with risk - but
not this kind of risk."
The air force last night refused to comment on the accident
analysis report, saying to do so would "legitimise the
unauthorised release of this evidence of the court".
The refusal is a contrast to advice from media specialists to
defence chiefs before the official report into the crash was
released last year.
They were told questions about the "defence force
investigating itself" could be rebutted with reference to the
accident analysis report.
Instructions included saying the official investigation was
"based in large part" on the report which was "prepared by
the RNZAF's most experienced air accident investigator".
Mr Coleman's office has previously said the report was
"instrumental in shaping the court of inquiry findings and
... instrumental in shaping the response by the air force".
Last night he refused to be interviewed on the crash, but a
spokesman cited two inquiries he had ordered.
The States Services Commission is investigating the air force
response to safety recommendations, and the former Department
of Labour's failure to carry out a workplace safety
The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, 33, co-pilot
Flying Officer Daniel Gregory, 28, and crewman Corporal Ben
Carson, 25, died in the crash.
The survivor, Stevin Creeggan, is seeking permission from the
courts to prosecute the air force under health and safety
- David Fisher, NZ Herald