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Media Release

Defence
MEDIA RELEASE

 
15/07/2008 MECC 223/08
 
 
 
CPA NNN/YY

REPORT OF THE BOARD OF INQUIRY INTO THE

CRASH OF BLACK HAWK 221 RELEASED

 

Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston today released the report of the Board of Inquiry into the crash of Black Hawk 221.

 

On 29 November 2006, an Australian Army Black Hawk helicopter (Number 221) from 171 Aviation Squadron, crashed while operating with HMAS Kanimbla in international waters southwest of Suva, Fiji.

 

Elements of the Australian Defence Force were on standby to possibly evacuate Australians from Fiji in the lead up to the military coup.

 

The Black Hawk was carrying four crew and six soldiers from the Special Air Service Regiment when it crashed and sank.  Nine of the 10 service personnel were rescued from the water.  Of those nine personnel, Captain Mark Bingley, the pilot, later died from his injuries.  Trooper Joshua Porter, a passenger, was unaccounted for and presumed dead.  His body was recovered from the seabed on 5 March 2007.

 

Following the crash, the Chief of the Defence Force commissioned an inquiry to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident and to make recommendations to reduce the risk of further incidents of this nature occurring again.

 

The Board was presided over by a civilian President, retired NSW Supreme Court Justice, Hon. David Levine RFD QC.  The Board also comprised two Australian Defence Force members: Group Captain Stephen Fielder AM and Commander Andrew Rourke RAN.

 

“The principal and overarching finding of the Board of Inquiry was that the cause of the crash of Black Hawk 221 was pilot error by the aircraft captain,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.

 

“Justice Levine stated that the principal finding, however, could not be viewed in isolation nor blame attributed to a highly experienced and well-respected Black Hawk pilot.

 

“This accident was the regrettable result of a number of factors coming together which culminated in this tragic incident.  There was a gradual adoption of approach profiles which, on occasions, exceeded the limits of the aircraft.  Other factors included a ‘can do’ culture in the Squadron, inadequate supervision, the pressures of preparing for operations, the relocation of the Squadron and a high operational tempo.

 

“I have agreed to 56 of the 58 recommendations made by the Board.  These recommendations are all aimed at making Special Operations flying safer.”

 

These recommendations include regular external auditing of the Squadron to validate flying tactics, techniques and procedures against doctrine and approved flying standards and redesigning the Special Operations approach.

 

In addition to the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry, Army has already put into place a number of initiatives to improve safety in the Squadron.

 

Army issued its new risk-management policy in October 2007.  It provides commanders with clear instructions on how to conduct risk management on operations and in training.  The Special Operations Approach has been reviewed and a new procedure has been developed that provides pilots with clear instructions on conducting the approach while maintaining appropriate safety margins.  Command and supervision of the Squadron has been strengthened with the establishment of a new Headquarters known as 6 Aviation Regiment.

 

“Today our thoughts are with the families of Captain Bingley and Trooper Porter – their loved ones served our nation proudly and we will remember them.  They have asked that their privacy be respected during this difficult time,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.

 

“I hope this BOI report answers some of the questions they have about this tragic accident and the circumstances surrounding the loss of their loved ones.”

 

 

Media Note: A redacted version of the report will be made available at: http://www.defence.gov.au/coi/inquiry_reports.htm

 

The redacted report has had operationally and personally sensitive information redacted to ensure that the release does not jeopardise the safety or privacy of Australian Defence Force personnel.

 

Information and transcripts from the Board of Inquiry into the crash of Black Hawk 221 can be found at: http://www.defence.gov.au/boi/blackhawk221

 

 

Media contact: Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664

 
 

Issued by Ministerial and Executive Coordination and Communication,
Department of Defence,
Canberra, ACT
Phone: 02 6127 1999 Fax: 02 6265 6946
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