Recorder loss hampers air crash inquiry



INVESTIGATORS probing Australia's worst air disaster in nearly 40 years cannot tell if the pilot heard a warning before the plane slammed into the ground.

On May 7 this year a Fairchild Metroliner twin-engined aircraft travelling at 290kmh crashed into a timber-covered ridge in Far North Queensland, killing 13 passengers, the pilot and co-pilot.

Former Yeppoon woman, Constable Sally Urquhart, 28, was among those killed.

The Queensland policewoman grew up in Central Queensland and was the school captain at Yeppoon High School.

The plane was descending in poor weather to Lockhart River aerodrome near a Cape York Aboriginal community, but was 1000 feet too low to safely clear the ridge.

Releasing interim investigation findings yesterday, Australian Transport Safety Bureau deputy director of aviation safety investigation Alan Stray said there should have been a warning to the crew.

"We have found that if the ground proximity warning system had been working as designed the crew should have received warnings well before the impact,'' he said.

"However, we have got no way of knowing if the ground proximity warning system worked or not.

"Unfortunately the cockpit voice recorder malfunctioned and we were not able to get any sound from that, that had meaningful or useful information.''

Mr Stray said there was no evidence to show the warning system ? a mechanical and electrical component ? had failed.

The aircraft was destroyed by an "intense fuel-fed fire'' after it crashed into trees and large boulders, hampering efforts by ATSB investigators.

While the weather was worse than forecast, Mr Stray said the pilots had been advised and knew what to expect at Lockhart River.

"It's early days still,'' he said.

"We are seven months into the investigation. We have got a lot of analysis left to do.



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