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Air crash investigation underway -

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Air crash investigation underway

The World Today - Thursday, 28 August , 2008 12:34:00

Reporter: Samantha Donovan

ELEANOR HALL: In Melbourne an investigation is under way into a plane crash that killed a student
pilot yesterday. The accident between three light planes happened near a suburban primary school
and local residents are now calling for pilot training to be moved to a less heavily populated
area.

In Melbourne, Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Investigators have this morning returned to the backyard of a unit in Melbourne's
south-eastern suburbs where the plane came down yesterday. Twenty-four year old Indian student
Akash Ananth, flying solo for the first time, was killed in the accident.

Witnesses reported seeing another plane, believed to be carrying a student pilot and an instructor,
clip the tail of Mr Ananth's plane. That plane was able to return to Moorabbin Airport and the two
men weren't injured.

There's been some speculation in newspapers today that a communication problem between one of the
student pilots and air traffic controllers many have caused the mid-air collision.

Rick Wilson has been flying light planes out of Moorabbin Airport for more than 40 years and is the
self appointed airport chaplain. He says he has no reason to think a communication problem caused
yesterday's crash, but he says the sub-standard English skills of some student pilots occasionally
leads to confusion.

RICK WILSON: I take my hat off to these Asian and Indian students that can come from another
language country because they have to not only master their own language but have to learn English,
and most of them do it quite well. But there is a language difficulty and quite regularly some of
them get flustered in trying to read back clearances from the tower and controllers and vice versa.

Two days ago when I was up flying myself, there was an Indian student dawdling on the runway and I
understand from the engineers later that checked his radio out that he got befuddled in changing
from the tower frequency to the surface movement control frequency which is done by a little
flip-flop switch. That's happened to many of us pilots over the years when we use other different
aircraft.

Every aircraft seems to be a bit different and you can get quite confused if you haven't been
trained and alert to take it all in.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: How are the air traffic controllers dealing with pilots that they have trouble
understanding or who have trouble understanding them?

RICK WILSON: I think it adds to their stress levels. I spoke to one the other day and he intimated
that it was nice to get out of the tower and go for a stroll. It has been a very busy time with
student, international student training.

You take away the international students, that's what's holding the airport up at the moment.
There's very few local people learning to fly so it's a bit of a cash cow to the training
organisations to bring in these students while the conditions and the dollar exchange is in their
favour.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The World Today asked the air traffic controllers' union Civil Air to respond to
Rick Wilson's concerns about language problems but it declined, saying it didn't want to comment
while the investigation into yesterday's fatal accident is under way.

Moorabbin Airport general manager Phil McConnell doesn't believe the English skills of overseas
trainee pilots is a problem at the flying schools.

PHIL MCCONNELL: We have a lot of overseas students. I mean this is the business. As an airport,
most of my customers here do flying training. It's a big export business. Many students come from
overseas. Their language skills, they are tested first of all by the flying school, they must have
a minimum standard to start flying training and that's an agreed standard, and then by the aviation
regulator who are CASA. So there are standards that they must go and meet.

Personally, I haven't heard any criticism but then again it's not an area that I would normally get
involved in. But certainly a lot of the students who are operating here will be from country's
whose main language is not English.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Phil McConnell and that report from Samantha Donovan.