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Sydney Seaplanes suspends flights after tragic crash

January 2, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Australia’s largest seaplane operator, Sydney Seaplanes, has suspended all operations until further notice following the tragic crash of one of its planes on New Year’s Eve and the death of all six aboard: five British tourists and the pilot.

Sydney Seaplanes is a well-established aviation tourism operator and its planes are a familiar sight on Sydney Harbour, landing and taking off from the base in Rose Bay in the city’s east.

Expressing the company’s shock at the crash, Sydney Seaplanes managing director Aaron Shaw confirmed all Sydney Seaplanes operations were suspended until further notice.

“We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the passengers and pilot who were tragically killed,” Shaw said.

“We do not yet know the cause of the accident. We are dedicating our full resources in assisting the NSW Police, the Australian Transport Safety Board, Civil Aviation Safety Authority and other relevant authorities to understand the cause of the accident.”

Sydney Seaplanes de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver 

The crash killed acclaimed British chief executive Richard Cousins, his two sons, his fiancée and her 11-year-old daughter, and pilot Gareth Morgan. Morgan, 44, was a highly experienced pilot who specialised in seaplane aviation and Cousins was chief executive of the world’s largest food-service company, the Compass Group.

The aircraft involved, a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver seaplane, hurtled into the sea shortly after taking off on a return run to Rose Bay from the Cottage Point Inn Restaurant on the banks of the Hawkesbury River.

As part of the company’s Lunch at Cottage Point Inn package, the seaplane lands at the waterside dining establishment and taxis to the restaurant’s seaplane dock, where staff welcome guests, who then enjoy a leisurely, three-course a la carte lunch.

The price, AUD 535 per person for a four-hour package, includes return seaplane flights and the lunch.

Describing its DHC-2 Beaver aircraft, Sydney Seaplanes’ website says: “Despite production stopping forty years ago, there are hundreds of these timeless classics still gracing the skies.

“Our own Beavers have been lovingly restored, equipped with the latest technology and refitted for comfort and style.”

Sydney Seaplanes has been operating since 2005 and until the crash had a perfect safety record.

“The safety of our passengers and staff is our absolute primary and highest priority,” Shaw said yesterday. “Our aircraft are professionally maintained to manufacturer’s specifications and our seaplane pilots are some of the most experienced in the world.”

The Australian newspaper, quoting Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) records, said Sydney Seaplanes operates two de Havilland Beavers – one built in 1961 and one in 1963 – and three Cessna Caravan turboprops built in 2006 and 2007. All are single-engine planes.

The plane that crashed had a single piston engine and was manufactured by de Havilland Canada in 1963. It was first registered in Australia in February the following year, CASA records show. The seaplane (registration VH-NOO) is reported to have sunk in seven-fathom deep water (13 metres) after it made a tight right-hand turn and nosedived into the sea in Jerusalem Bay near the town of Cowan, north of Sydney.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau aims to release a preliminary report in about 30 days, though the full investigation could take a year.

Written by Peter Needham

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