A Victorian pilot whose plane crashed in to a Melbourne shopping centre, killing himself and four passengers, may have had a history of not completing pre-flight safety checks.
An inquest is expected to begin in September into the fatal February 2017 plane crash, which occurred shortly after take-off from Melbourne’s Essendon Airport.
Max Quartermain was flying four American passengers on a golfing holiday to Tasmania’s King Island.
He and his passengers – Greg Reynolds De Haven, Glenn Garland, Russell Munsch and John Washburn – all died in what was the worst air disaster in Victoria in 30 years.
The aircraft went down 10 seconds after take-off and just two seconds after Mr Quartermain issued an urgent “mayday” message.
Crash investigators found the plane’s rudder was in the incorrect position and Coroner Darren Bracken on Friday heard that would likely be the focus of the inquiry.
Liam Magowan, assisting the coroner, said there were at least two logical explanations.
Either Mr Quartermain didn’t notice the rudder in the incorrect position during pre-flight checks, or he had deliberately but mistakenly caused it to be in the wrong position during take-off.
“There is some suggestion in the evidence that Mr Quartermain did not always undertake the mandatory flight checks and that appropriate systems may not have been in place,” Mr Magowan said.
There’s also some evidence Mr Quartermain had a tendency to confuse instruments and that he had an “overall lack of situational awareness when operating aircraft”, he said.
A previous report found Mr Quartermain had narrowly avoided death two years earlier in a near-miss incident.
He was tested twice and met safety requirements to fly again.
The inquest could also look into the location of the shopping centre, which is at the end of one of the airport’s runways.
Nick Hornby, representing the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said a draft report from a separate investigation into building approvals for the outlet shops, is hoped to be completed by July.
“It is one of the ATSB’s highest priority investigations,” he said.
Mr Bracken said he hoped to set dates for a three-day inquest in mid to late September.