Published date: 11 October 2022

The CAA acknowledges the conviction and sentencing of The Alpine Group in the Queenstown District Court on Tuesday 11 October, before Judge Walker.

The Alpine Group was sentenced to pay a fine of $315,000 plus $64,000 in legal costs for the part it played in the 18 October 2018 fatal helicopter crash that caused the death of the pilot and two passengers.

The Alpine Group pleaded guilty in August 2022 to two charges that were filed by the CAA under section 48 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). The maximum penalty for each charge was $1.5 million.

The charges related to events that led up to the helicopter crashing on 18 October 2018 on its way to a Tahr culling operation near Wanaka.

Crash analysis showed the rear left-hand door opened during the flight. A pair of overalls flew out of the cabin and were sucked into the tail rotor, with the helicopter crashing soon after.

Following an investigation by the CAA, it was alleged that door opening events were common and underreported, which led to no corrective actions being taken by the Alpine Group to mitigate or remove the risk caused by those door openings.

CAA Deputy Chief Executive David Harrison says the sentence reflects the critical role safety awareness and reporting safety concerns play in airborne operations.

“Aviation organisations need to understand how important it is to action any safety issue, big or small, as soon as it arises. The failure to identify risks and take appropriate action can lead to disastrous consequences.”

“Aviation is a safe industry but not without risks. It is vital any risk identified is carefully considered in the operator’s safety framework and then mitigated or remedied in order for organisations to ensure the safety of everyone who flies in their aircraft.”

“Prior to this prosecution there was a low reporting rate of door opening incidents but now these are recognised as a real risk and we have seen reporting increase dramatically.”


Note to editors

Enforcement options for the CAA include education, warning, infringement fines or prosecution. A prosecution will be considered where there is sufficient evidence and it is considered to be in the public interest to prosecute.

The CAA prosecutor in this matter was Ms Stephanie Bishop of Luke Cunningham and Clere.