Helicopter operators demand 'complete overhaul' of aviation safety after years of failures

The country's helicopter industry is calling for a complete overhaul of the aviation rules, following years of recurring failures by the Civil Aviation Authority. 

The CAA has said it's making changes following a fatal crash at Fox Glacier that killed seven people but the industry says it doesn't have confidence in such reassurances. 

Scott McKenzie knows flight safety. He spent two decades with the Airforce, and is a qualified flight instructor.

He says the deaths of seven people in Fox Glacier should have been avoided. 

"If the CAA had been in there and ensured the operator was following the CAA rules, it's highly likely that this accident would not have happened," Scott McKenzie, Chairman of the NZ Helicopter Association, told Newshub. 

A report into the crash found the CAA was aware of safety issues with the operator for years, but didn't intervene. 

The CAA first became aware of safety issues with the operator back in March 2011 - almost five years before the fatal crash. 

The CAA has now engaged Price Water House Coopers to review its own work but problems with the CAA's work go back decades.

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The Auditor-General has criticised it in four reports, over more than 20 years and even its latest report says: "The CAA's weaknesses that we have previously identified remain".

"We are continually seeing the same  accidents happen over and over again," McKenzie says. 

He wants an overhaul and a new independent aviation safety Ombudsman. 

"Out rule set is well over 30 years old and is not fit for purpose. We want to see a whole review of the aviation framework," McKenzie said. 

The group representing pilots says it can be hard to communicate with the CAA. 

"At times we've been frustrated in that we've communicated issues to them in the safety and regulatory framework that they are supposed to oversee and we've had a slow response," Tim Robinson, Airline Pilots' Association, said. 

The CAA refused Newshub's request for an interview however, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said he hadn’t seen any justification for a wider review of the regulations. 

"The issue was that the authority was not performing its regulatory duties to the standard New Zealanders expect. 

"The CAA has acted to improve its performance since then."