DISASTER: The wreck of the light plane that crashed on Middle Island.
DISASTER: The wreck of the light plane that crashed on Middle Island.

Owner of plane involved in fatal crash reveals CASA concerns

THE aviation tourism company owner whose aircraft was involved in a fatal crash last year has raised concerns about how the incident was handled by the national aviation safety regulator.

Former 1770 Castaway owner Bruce Rhoades was expected to raise questions on ABC's 7.30 Report last night about the evidence that that Civil Aviation Safety Authority relied on to cancel his personal and company licence and the licence of Les Woodall, who was flying the plane.

The Cessna 172, one of two aircraft used for Castaway's tours, crashed at Middle Island near Seventeen Seventy, on January 10 last year. A 29-year-old backpacker from the United Kingdom died. The pilot and two other passengers were seriously injured.

Mr Rhoades, who has terminal brain cancer and wants to clear his name, told ABC and Fairfax that CASA's claims the company was a "serious and imminent risk to air safety" and that he and Mr Woodall did an "aerobatic manouevre" were untrue.

Bruce Rhoades is running on a platform of improved council efficiency.
Bruce Rhoades now lives in Bathurst. Rob Black

He disputed the assessment that Mr Woodall did not behave appropriately and accused CASA of relying on fuel samples collected from the plane in a used Coke bottle days after the crash as evidence. But CASA told The Observer it stood by its decision to cancel the three licences.

Corporate communications manager Peter Gibson said the authority's role was to review serious incidents for potential regulatory breaches "in the interest of public safety".

Mr Gibson said CASA did not collect fuel from the aircraft or use it in its decision making.

"CASA carefully considered the available evidence and took appropriate action to make sure safety risks were appropriately managed," he said.

A preliminary report into the crash by Australian Transport Safety Bureau found the engine sustained a "sudden power loss", which prompted Mr Woodall to head for the beach to land. ATSB and the coroners continue crash investigations.