Angel Flight Needs Operational Scrutiny in the Wake of Two Fatal Accidents

Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) two-year long probe was finally able to identify a pattern that could be signaling alarm to the way Angel Flight Australia has been undertaking its community service flight operations.

In 2017, when Tracy Redding 43 and her teenage daughter boarded the charity Angel Flight, used as a carrier and passenger mode for medical emergencies, piloted by Grant Gilbert, they had not imagined their supposed flight to safe harbor may end in their death within 70 seconds of takeoff. The crash was largely due to weather conditions and loss of visibility but a report by the ATSB, now holds Angel Flight responsible for the accident, citing oversight of important safety processes.

Angel Flight conducts about 1,600 flights every year and the ATSB acknowledged the flight provider had taken steps to improve safety, including an online safety course and a pilot mentoring program.

“The average likelihood of a fatal accident involving an Angel Flight organized passenger-carrying flight was more than seven times higher than other private flights. There was an increased prevalence of flight preparation and navigation errors in Angel Flight community service flights, compared with other private operations,” the report stated.

What caused a bigger stir was this was not an isolated incident, and a strikingly similar accident had occurred in 2011, with once again 2 passengers, a mother and daughter losing their lives.

The report mentions that the pilots steering the craft did not have the necessary experience to navigate through low visibility and under pressure. “Passengers on these flights and their pilots are being exposed to much higher levels of risk compared with other types of aviation operations. The community could reasonably expect that community service flights would have a level of safety at least commensurate with other operations, ” ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said.

In the wake of the crash, Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) imposed new minimum safety standards requiring community flight service pilots to have at least 250 hours of flight time at the controls.