Station boss in CASA probe

Kate MatthewsCountryman

A Gascoyne pastoralist, who helped with aerial efforts during the December to February fires, is being investigated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

At the start of March, David Robinson, of Doorawarrah station 80km east of Carnarvon, received a notice in the mail to surrender his log book, licence, medical certificate and maintenance records for two aircraft.

Mr Robinson, who has been flying since 1979, has complied but has not been formally told what he is under investigation for by CASA.

He suspects a complaint was made by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) about alleged proximity events or for unknowingly flying during a Notice to Airman (NOTAM), which prohibits flying.

DEC has confirmed one of its contract pilots reported a near proximity incident during the fires and is obliged to report such incidents.

The Gascoyne pastoralist said he provided aerial support to family and staff on the ground at Doorawarrah during the fires.

"You've got to be there in the plane and stay there with the machines," Mr Robinson said.

"Once they get into the jungle where there is smoke everywhere, they don't know where to go and don't have any bearings."

Mr Robinson has 15,000-plus hours of flying experience and relies on his wings to fly between his properties Doorawarrah and Yinnetharra, which are 240km apart. "A plane on a station is like a tractor on a farm," he said.

During the fires, Mr Robinson said he flew 100 to 200 feet above the ground while DEC aircraft monitoring the blaze were higher up, between 1000 and 2000 feet.

"I find it quite bizarre they can put in a complaint against me when I was the only one in the aviation team doing anything constructive," Mr Robinson said.

A spokesman for CASA said it was not appropriate to make any comment at this stage.

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