Pilot's Maneuvers 'Inexplicable' in Fatal Crash
Plane was half a mile off course when it made sudden turn north of Sydney
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2018 12:42 PM CST
This image shows the location of the plane crash in Hawkesbury River, New South Wales, on Dec. 31, 2017.   (Australian Media Pool via AP)
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(Newser) – A Sydney Seaplanes aircraft carrying six people "should not have been where it was" when it crashed in Australia on New Year's Eve, leaving no survivors, the company's CEO says. The DHC-2 Beaver carrying Compass Group CEO Richard Cousins and family members, along with pilot Gareth Morgan, veered half a mile off the designated flight plan after departing a waterfront restaurant, taking it over Jerusalem Bay, 30 miles outside of Sydney, according to a preliminary report released Wednesday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The plane then made a steep 80- to 90-degree turn to the right at low altitude, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney Seaplanes CEO Aaron Shaw describes the turn as "totally inexplicable," noting Jerusalem Bay is "surrounded by steep terrain and has no exit" and Morgan had "intimate knowledge of the location."

Transport safety director Nat Nagy says investigators are trying to determine why the plane went off course—Shaw says Morgan had flown the correct route "hundreds of times," per the BBC—and whether its sudden movement was "an attempt to turn around." Pilots do occasionally turn around in that spot, per the Guardian. But Nagy says the pilot's intentions aren't clear as the plane wasn't required to have a voice or flight data recorder. The ATSB report did find the plane's flaps were in a climb position. Investigators found no evidence of "flight control issues" or any other issue with the plane. The report adds that Morgan—who had more than 10,000 hours of flying experience, including 9,000 hours on float planes—was in a "high standard of health" at the time of the crash. Regarding Morgan's mental health, Nagy says there's no sign of "any concern in that area."

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