Double Six tragedy: Nomad tailplane design flaw now laid bare, claims former CM's daughter

KOTA KINABALU: A claim made in a documentary that the Nomad aircraft had an issue with its tailplane, also known as the horizontal stabiliser, has been backed up by the Australian report into the 1976 Double Six plane crash, says the daughter of former Sabah chief minister Tun Fuad Stephens.

Faridah Stephens was referring to the "Four Corners" documentary, which aired in 1995, produced by national broadcaster Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

She said the documentary claimed that the Nomad airplane had a flaw with its tailplane.

"Australian military pilots refused to fly it because the designers and engineers couldn't say with certainty that, despite more frequent checks, the plane wouldn't crash within the span of one flight," she said in a Facebook post here on Thursday (April 27).

She said the tailplane issue was also mentioned in the declassified Australian report into the Double Six tragedy, which claimed the life of her father and 10 others.

"I have kept a close watch on issues regarding the plane and issues related to it," she said, adding the documentary suggested there was a "cover up".

In a previous statement, Tan Sri Harris Salleh, Fuad's immediate successor, contended that based on the documentary, it was clear the Nomad aircraft was not fit to fly due to its faulty design.

He claimed the aircraft was involved in up to 32 crashes worldwide, resulting in 76 fatalities.

The Australian report into the tragedy said that the pilot's "poor ability" and overloading may have caused the plane to crash.

It also said that Malaysia did not immediately accept the technical findings that the aircraft had no mechanical or body defects and asked for independent views on the aircraft's condition.

After getting independent views, Malaysia accepted the Australian report, which also ruled out that the aircraft flaps were defective.

The Australian report mostly tallies with Malaysia's findings, but also revealed that another Sabah Air pilot left the plane to make space for one more passenger to sit in the co-pilot's seat – Fuad's son, Johari.

The 52-page report also revealed that Fuad might have unintentionally put Capt Gandhi Nathan as the pilot despite his "sub-standard ability".

The Australian investigation further found poor operations by Sabah Air and a failure on the Civil Aviation Department's (CAD) part to completely fulfil their obligations as the local certification authority were factors contributing to the crash.

In the report, Government Aircraft Factories (GAF), the manufacturer of the Nomad aircraft, also said that Sabah Air was operating illegally as its operations manual submitted to the CAD was never approved.

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