Pilot’s concern over air crashes

2014-08-18 00:00

THE deaths of well-known pilots Alistair McIntosh and Alick Rennie in separate KwaZulu-Natal air crashes were “tainted with illegality”, court papers claim.

McIntosh — a prominent advocate and president of the Pietermaritzburg Aero Club at the time of the crash — was killed in a glider accident in the Drakensberg in August 2012.

Olympic canoeist Rennie was chief flying instructor at the PMB Aero Club when he died with aircraft owner Dave Grosvenor in a crash in Richmond in December 2013.

Now pilot John Campbell is raising questions about the circumstances of those deaths in a court application in the Pietermaritzburg high court against the Aero Club.

Campbell claims his 37-year membership of the club was “unilaterally and summarily terminated” from August 7, allegedly because he had raised concerns about safety issues.

This followed an allegedly “disastrous audit” by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) in March. Campbell alleges he was told a directive was given to the PMB Aero Club to “suspend its flying operations until it has got its house in order”.

Campbell believes he is being made a scapegoat and wants to be reinstated as a member.

In his affidavit, Campbell said he became aware of a routine inspection and audit of the Aero Club’s training school on March 27, which he and his brother attended.

He said he and his brother had asked “some pertinent questions” of the civil aviation inspector, Mandla Singaphi.

Campbell said the findings of the audit showed the PMB Aero Club performed “dismally”.

“In my capacity as a concerned member of some 37 years’ standing, and as a flying instructor and designated flight examiner, it is my respectful submission that I have every right to voice my concerns,” he said.

“In the preceding two years two senior office bearers … [of the PMB Aero Club] were killed in aircraft crashes tainted with illegality.”

He said in McIntosh’s case he had been informed that “the authority to fly had lapsed at the time of the accident”.

In December 2013, Rennie, was killed.

Campbell said he was informed that Rennie was allegedly “testing the owner”, Dave Grosvenor, and was not rated on the aircraft concerned. “Grosvenor’s licence had lapsed. Therefore there was no legally qualified pilot on board at the time of the accident,” he said,

He believed the incidents were indicative of a “dangerous trend of non-compliance with regulations at the club”. He had raised his concerns in other letters to the committee.

“My efforts were aimed at preventing similar fatal occurrences yet the reaction of the committee … was to summarily terminate my membership,” he alleges.

Who is John Campbell?

• John Campbell is a senior SA Airways captain on the overseas Airbus 340/A330 fleet.

• He has been employed by SAA for 20 years.

• He is also the holder of an Airline Transport Pilot licence, is a Grade One Flying Instructor, and a Designated Flight Examiner (DFE) appointed by the SA Civil Aviation Authority.

• He has represented SA as a Springbok pilot in rally and precision flying and his name appears on the PMB Aero Club’s honours board.

• He says his family has a “long and proud” association with the PMB Aero Club spanning 68 years.

Aero Club

committee replies

“Other than to say that some of the allegations made by Mr Campbell about the Pietermaritzburg Aero Club, its members and its committee are defamatory and that the committee and the club reserves its rights, it does not wish to comment on the merits of the case brought by Mr Campbell against the club. The committee is of the view that the appropriate forum for dealing with Mr Campbell’s allegations is the high court.

“However, the committee wishes to express its outrage at the linking of the tragic deaths of the three pilots in question to an internal dispute between Mr Campbell and the club. These deaths had nothing to do with the club. Mr Campbell as a senior member and part-time instructor at the club would have known that the flights concerned were not carried out under the auspices of the club.”

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