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'Angel Flights' Seven Times More Likely To Fatally Crash

The Australian Safety Transport Bureau has found private flights charted by charity Angel Flight to ferry sick children to hospital are seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than other private operators.

The final report was handed down on Tuesday, examining a doomed flight in 2017 from Mount Gambier to Adelaide, which killed all three people on board.

They were passengers 16-year-old Emily Redding, her mother Tracy Redding, and volunteer pilot Grant Gilbert.

Tracy Redding, Emily Redding and pilot Grant Gilbert. Photo: 10 News First

The report stated the TB-10 Tobago aircraft reached a height of 300 ft, before crash landing just 70 seconds after take off on June 28, 2017.

The Australian Safety Transport Bureau (ATSB) found that the pilot took off in low-level cloud and, shortly after take-off, likely lost visual cues and probably became spatially disorientated, resulting in loss of control of the aircraft.

READ MORE: Investigators To Probe Fatal Melbourne Plane Crash

While it had previously established that the rate of fatal crashes by private airline operators is 'substantially' higher than commercial flights -- the ATSB investigation found the free service offered by Angel Flight was seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than other private charter flights.

"The ATSB found two aspects in particular likely contributed to this higher rate. These were the potential for some pilots to experience perceived or self-induced pressure by taking on the responsibility to fly ill, unknown passengers, at scheduled times to meet predetermined medical appointments, often with an expected same day return; and the required operation to unfamiliar locations, and limited familiarity with procedures in controlled airspace (associated with larger aerodromes)," the report said.

The crash site near Mount Gambier, South Australia. Photo: 10 News First

The safety bureau recommended Angel Flight consider the safety benefits of using commercial flights where they are available to transport its passengers. On the day of the fatal Mount Gambier crash, suitable commercial flights were available to Adelaide.

In response to the report, Angel Flight Australia says all registered pilots can now access an online pilot education course developed in the United States, while an Australian version is in the works. The charity organisation is also facilitating the sharing of safety seminars run by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), and has requested feedback on attendance.

CASA has also implemented a new safety standard for community service flights.

You can read the full report into the 2017 crash here.

Contact the author: tryan@networkten.com.au