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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is releasing its Preliminary Factual report into the ditching that occurred 6 km to the west of Norfolk Island on the evening of 18 November 2009 and involved Israel Aircraft Industries Westwind 1124A aircraft, registered VH-NGA. The six occupants evacuated the aircraft as it sank, and were later recovered by a rescue vessel from Norfolk Island.

While the ATSB has yet to establish all the factors relevant to this occurrence, it nevertheless highlights the risks in operating long distance flights to remote island locations which are subject to rapidly changing weather conditions.

As a result of this accident, the aircraft operator commenced a program to check and revalidate the company's commercial Westwind pilots. The program addressed a number of aspects of the company's Westwind operations.

The ATSB has interviewed a number of witnesses and people who were associated with the occurrence, and is assessing the feasibility of recovering the aircraft Cockpit Voice and Flight Data recorders from the seabed.

The investigation is continuing and will include further examination and analysis of the:

• meteorological information and its effect on the decision making and actions of the crew during the flight
• fuel planning relevant to the flight
• operational requirements that were relevant to the conduct of the flight
• crew resource management
• aeromedical flight classification and dispatch.

The remainder of the investigation is likely to take some months. However, should any critical safety issues emerge that require urgent attention, the ATSB will immediately bring such issues to the attention of the relevant authorities who are best placed to take prompt action to address those issues.

Media contact: 1800 020 616
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Last update 01 April 2011