Investigators for Double Six tragedy also killed in plane crash

PETALING JAYA: Two Australian investigators who signed off on the Double Six tragedy report in 1976 died two months later in a crash involving a similar aircraft.

The report declassified by the Australian government shows that it was prepared by Government Aircraft Factories (GAF) acting chief designer

David Hooper and chief test pilot Stuart Pearce.

The two died in a plane crash on Aug 6, 1976, two months after the Double Six tragedy while they were testing a GAF N24 Nomad in Victoria, Australia.

A Sydney Morning Herald report titled “Nomad survivor describes crash” dated Aug 19, 1976, said the sole survivor of the crash, Pat Larcey, was the Nomad’s flight test engineer.

According to a report on the incident, which can be sighted in the Australia Transport Safety Bureau archives, the flight was meant to “investigate the flutter characteristics of the aircraft in its accident configuration”.

The report said take-off was normal before eyewitnesses on the ground observed the tailplane tabs fluttering and an unidentified component separating from the aircraft before it crashed.

Meanwhile in Kota Kinabalu, a retired pilot said the report on the Nomad GAF N22B crash was lopsided as it put the blame on human error, especially the late pilot Capt Gandhi Nathan.

Captain Naru Kiob, a former chief pilot with Sabah Air, said the report, which, among other things, stated that the Sabah Air plane was flying illegally, did not make sense.

“How could it be flying illegally when they had and were operating two Boeing 707s and two Grumman G-IIs at that time?” he said.

Capt Kiob, however, refused to comment further but merely “agreed to disagree with the report”.

Captain Nizam Ghandi Nathan, the son of Captain Gandhi and also a retired pilot, when asked about the report, said, “No comment.”

Former Sabah chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee said views from lawyers and aviation experts must be taken into account before any reaction could be made.

“I have yet to study the Australian report, but I believe it is more detailed than the Malaysian report.

“I need to get a better understanding of the whole document first,” he said, adding that both reports needed to disclose unanswered questions for the full closure of the painful chapter of the Double Six tragedy.

On June 6, 1976, the crash killed 11 people, including the then chief minister, Tun Fuad Stephens.

The pilot was accused by Australia’s investigating team of “having poor ability” and being a subpar pilot, among other things.

It also accused the pilot of having overloaded the plane, information that also ties in with Malaysia’s findings.

The Australian report also revealed that another Sabah Air pilot left the plane to make way for Fuad’s son, Johari, who then sat in the co-pilot’s seat.

It also ruled out the possibility that the aircraft flaps were defective.

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