Fatal Fox Glacier crash company gets permission to fly again

The South Island helicopter firm involved in a crash at Fox Glacier that killed seven people has had its air operating certificate reinstated.

In May, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) suspended the air operating certificate (AOC) of James Patrick Scott, whose company, Alpine Adventures, had operated flights in Fox Glacier, Franz Josef, and Tekapo. CAA spokesman Mike Richards confirmed an air operating certificate had been issued to the renamed entity, Fox-Franz Heliservices. Training will have to be undertaken before it can resume scenic flights from its six bases.

The Companies Office shows the new entity was incorporated in June, and lists Karangarua pilot James Scott as the sole shareholder and director. The AOC was initially suspended by the CAA for 10 days. Scott, who is facing separate health and safety charges laid by the CAA, later surrendered the certificate. At the time the initial suspension was issued, CAA director Graeme Harris said the action was taken in the public interest while his doubts about the safety of the operation were resolved.

The November 2015 crash killed 28-year-old Kiwi pilot Mitch Gameren and six tourists: Andrew Virco of Cambridge in England, 50, Katharine Walker of Cambridge in England, 51, Nigel Edwin Charlton of Hampshire, 66, Cynthia Charlton of Hampshire, 70, Sovannmony Leang of New South Wales, 27, and Josephine Gibson of New South Wales, 29.  Managing director Scott had over 30 years of experience operating helicopters, and the company was a member of the Aviation Industry Association and the Mt Cook & Westland National Parks User Aviation Group.

The company’s Squirrel helicopter was on a tourist flight when it crashed into a crevassed area of the 13 kilometre-long glacier.It was several days before the bodies and some of the wreckage could be recovered. Further wreckage was recovered in April this year, including belly panels and helicopter fragments. The Transport Accident Investigation Commission’s inquiry into the crash is not expected to be completed before May 2017.

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