Pearce, Skehill, NIASA and Australian Aviation Reports


In October 1998 CASA engaged Professor Dennis Pearce to review a complaint made about CASA’s handling of a report of a major aircraft engine defect. Professor Pearce is a former Commonwealth Ombudsman and a member of CASA’s Legal Panel.

The defective engine was in an aircraft used by a Sydney gliding club and the problems were discovered by aircraft engineer David Dent in late 1996. After correctly reporting the defects to CASA, Mr Dent became dissatisfied at the way CASA investigated the matter.

In January 1999 CASA released Professor Pearce’s report. The report concludes that the Lycoming engine from the gliding club tug aircraft was in a dangerous state and could have failed at any time with tragic results.

Following the receipt of Professor Pearce’s report CASA asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate further to determine if there was any corruption on the part of CASA officials in relation to the matter.

NOTE: I wish I had been made aware of this investigation as I too witnessed aircraft engines in dismantled condition at the private premises at Connells Point .

Therefore I agree with Mr Muscat’s statements.


On 26 July 1998, there was an accident involving an aircraft operated by Aquatic Air Pty Ltd, trading as South Pacific Seaplanes. Tragically, all five people on board were killed.

In August 1998 CASA appointed Mr Stephen Skehill to undertake detailed investigation into internal issues arising from the incident. Mr Skehill is Special Counsel in the Canberra office of national law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques.

The expanded inquiry examined a number of specific issues in accordance with its terms of reference, which were to conduct a full and complete review of the actions of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in relation to the operations of Aquatic Air Pty Ltd, trading as South Pacific Seaplanes, for the three years ending 31 July 1998.

The report was released in November 1998. It made 11 recommendations after examining the history of CASA’s regulation of Aquatic Air from June 1994.

Letter from National Institute of Airworthiness Surveyors Australia 1999.

Extract from the July 1996 edition of Australian Aviation

I thank Jim Thorn and Macarthur Job for their help in publishing this article on Air Safety as told to Macarthur Job.