Pilot error blamed for fatal Essendon crash
PILOT Max Quartermain didn't notice his light aircraft's rudder was set in the wrong position before it took off and immediately crashed into an Essendon DFO centre, killing everyone on board, aviation investigators have found.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau handed down today its long-awaited report into the deadly crash that killed the pilot and four American tourists on their way to a golfing trip on King Island, Tasmania, on February 21 last year.
Investigators found the Beechcraft B200 Super King plane's rudder trim was in the wrong position, which caused the aircraft to turn, or "yaw", sharply to the left soon after takeoff from Essendon Airport.
Mr Quartermain made a distress call shortly after taking off and repeated "mayday" seven times to air traffic control.
Within seconds, the aircraft crashed into the Essendon DFO shopping centre and erupted in a fireball, instantly killing the pilot as well as American friends Greg DeHaven, Russell Munsch, John Washburn and Glenn Garland.
The crash was previously described as Victoria's worst aviation accident in 30 years.
A pre-flight check list by Mr Quartermain should have picked up the error with the rudder trim, the ATSB found.
Both engines were working on the aircraft at the time of impact.
The ATSB report said investigations into the crash were hampered due to a tripped "impact switch" that shut off the plane's cockpit voice recorder and was not reset before the doomed flight, which meant the accident was not recorded.
ATSB investigators also found if the plane hadn't hit the DFO building, it may have crashed into the busy nearby freeway, possibly resulting in even more casualties on the ground.
More to come.