KOTA KINABALU: A question about the fairness of the Australian manufacturer's report on the 1976 ill-fated Sabah Air Nomad 9M-ATZ crash is raised by the family of former chief minister Tun Fuad Stephens.
The family are now seeking expert views on the recently declassified "Double Six" crash reports that included the report of the Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) investigating team that stated there was no evidence of aircraft defect in the mishap that killed Fuad and 10 other people, including three of his Cabinet ministers.
"There is clearly a conflict of interest here. The situation is akin to someone being the judge on a murder trial in which they are a suspect," the family said in statement Sunday (April 30).
The family said based on the declassified Australian reports, it was clear that the Malaysian investigation relied on the reports from the Australian team.
The Australian team consisted of the two Accredited Representatives from the Department of Transport, Australia, and two people from GAF - Stuart Pearce (GAF chief test pilot) and David Hooper (GAF chief designer) - who signed the documents.
Both died in a Nomad plane crash exactly two months later on Aug 6, 1976 in Avalon, Melbourne, Victoria.
"We are told that including people from the aircraft manufacturing side in an investigation into a plane crash is a norm. The GAF manufactured the planes and the Government of Australia owned the GAF.
"However, this clear conflict of interest should have been watched and overseen with a very high degree of diligence and care," the family said.
The family cited various official written minutes by Australians in the released reports that gave indication that Malaysia relied greatly on the Australian investigation team's findings.
Citing one of the minutes on Nov 16, 1977 by Australia's Department of Transport officer RH Watts, which stated the Malaysian investigation depended to a major extent on the Australian investigators, and he managed to keep the role of the two GAF representatives in perspective.
"Prior to departing from Malaysia, Mr Choquenot informally assisted (Malaysia's chief investigator) Colonel Omar Saman in preparing a draft of the final report and the report closely follows that draft," the minutes stated.
The Australian minutes also said that Australia's technical advice was accepted in "toto" though it observed that Malaysia did sought other opinions concerning the GAF report.
Fuad's family now wants to know whose opinion did Malaysia seek on the GAF report apart from the GAF and Australian Ministry of Transport - both of which had a conflict of interest.
The family also said that the Australian Broadcast Corporation in an investigative report "Lies in the Sky" in September 1995 spoke of the GAF suppressing negative reports on their Nomad airplanes as the profit was the priority.
"Is the report by the GAF investigating team on the crash of a Sabah Air Nomad 9M-ATZ the absolute final report available from the Australian side?" the family asked.
They believed that most of those declassified materials looked "more like an internal memo and are clearly marked "company confidential."
Both Malaysian and Australian investigations reports concluded that human error and overloading of the rear cargo caused the Nomad to stall and nosedive into the Sembulan sea as it made its approach to the Kota Kinabalu airport runway.