Six people died in the crash on New Year’s Eve. Picture: Richard Dobson.
Six people died in the crash on New Year’s Eve. Picture: Richard Dobson.

Seaplanes to return to skies with two pilots

SYDNEY Seaplanes will take to the skies midweek, two weeks after six people died in an horrific crash aboard one of its planes, with two pilots recruited to man each turbine-powered Cessna C-208 Caravan flight.

The company was poised to resume operations today from Rose Bay but adverse weather conditions has meant the first flight of the year has now been pencilled in for Wednesday.

Bosses of the scenic flights firm suspended operations following the New Year's Eve crash that killed experienced pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, and five passengers, on board the de Havilland Beaver DHC-2 aircraft.

Pilot Gareth Morgan died in the accident.
Pilot Gareth Morgan died in the accident.

Its remaining Beaver aircraft will not operate until findings of a preliminary report into the Hawkesbury River crash are made public later this month - instead the company's two Cessna C-208 Caravan aircraft will each be flown by two pilots in a bid to increase passenger confidence.

A statement released today from Seaplane Pilots Association Australia's vice president Kevin Bowe read: "Given its long and successful flying history, Sydney Seaplanes is confident there are no systemic failings in the de Havilland Beaver DHC-2 aircraft, the type that crashed on New Year's Eve.

"However, the company will not be flying its remaining de Havilland Beaver DHC-2 aircraft in advance of the release of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's Preliminary Factual Report.

Flights will now have two pilots on-board. Picture: Lenn Bayliss
Flights will now have two pilots on-board. Picture: Lenn Bayliss

"Flight services will commence with the company's Cessna C-208 Caravan aircraft, both turbine powered 2008 models.

"These aircraft are serviced and maintained by Australia's Cessna certified maintenance facility, Hawker Pacific at Bankstown Airport, who ensure the aircraft's airworthiness and high standards of maintenance."

British millionaire Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his partner Emma Bowden, 48, his two sons, Will and Edward, aged 25 and 23 respectively, and Ms Bowden's daughter, Heather, 11.

Mr Morgan's funeral was held in Waverley last week, with his devastated mother and father in attendance after they arrived from Canada.

Emma and Heather Bowden.
Emma and Heather Bowden.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is leading the investigation into the tragedy, which happened shortly after the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver they were travelling in took off from Cottage Point.

The ATSB is interviewing witnesses, examining recorded data from the on-board electronics and air traffic control logs as well as poring over the plane's maintenance records.

The wreckage of the doomed seaplane was recovered from 13m of water in the days after the tragedy.

The preliminary factual report into the crash is expected to be released by early next month.

Sydney Seaplanes managing director Aaron Shaw said getting back to the air was "necessary" for business.

"It's also what our late colleague Gareth Morgan, a passionate seaplane pilot for all of his adult life, would have wanted," he said.

Over the next 12 months the ATSB will compile a detailed report to pinpoint exactly what caused the fatal crash and use this information to try and prevent future tragedies.

The aircraft at the centre of the crash, which Duchess of Cambridge's sister Pippa and her husband James Matthews flew in when they were in Sydney last year, had been rebuilt more than 20 years ago after it was destroyed in another fatal crash.

It is estimated Sydney Seaplanes, which turns over $8 million a year, has lost about $21,000 in revenue for each day it has been grounded.

The company usually flies between 280 and 300 passengers a day during peak periods.