Gracetown joyflight helicopter vandalised

Wild Blue Helicopters operator Brett Campany tapes up the gaping hole in the back window. He says the tough Perspex window is extremely hard to break.
Wild Blue Helicopters operator Brett Campany tapes up the gaping hole in the back window. He says the tough Perspex window is extremely hard to break.

GRACETOWN'S helicopter joyflights row took a serious turn yesterday with a costly vandalism attack on the chopper at the centre of the controversy.

Wild Blue Helicopters owner Brett Campany discovered the smashed rear window at his Bussell Highway base, just south of Cowaramup, when he arrived for work on Monday.

"I think it's disgusting, absolutely disgusting that someone would go this far to stop us from promoting the region," Mr Campany said.

A police photograph shows the extent of damage to the helicopter's rear door.

A police photograph shows the extent of damage to the helicopter's rear door.

Margaret River police are conducting a local investigation with a potential charge of criminal damage.

With no security camera footage to rely on, police have asked any witnesses to contact them.

However Mr Campany is pursuing a charge under the Federal Anti-Terrorism Act, referring the incident to Australian Federal police, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

"This is a lot more serious than someone just breaking the window of a car," he said.

"I'm really surprised that someone would go this far and that they're not intelligent enough to realise the severity of tampering with an aircraft.

"If we find out who's done this we will go all the way with it.

Under Australian law tampering with an aircraft comes under the Anti-Terrorism Act and I intend to take it as far as I can."

Before flying to Jandakot Airport with the door removed to seek repairs, Mr Campany conducted a full inspection of the helicopter to rule out further unseen damage.

Yesterday a private helicopter pilot lent Mr Campany a matching door, enabling him to resume his business and bookings.

The damaged door will be sent to the US for repairs which could cost up to $20,000.

Gracetown resident Marc Tomlinson, who is leading the campaign to have helicopter flights redirected away from homes near Cowaramup Bay Road, condemned the vandalism attack.

He phoned Mr Campany personally to express his dismay over the incident.

"If it was malicious it is not condoned," Mr Tomlinson said.

"The only way to achieve a long term outcome is through dialogue, a course of action we are pursuing."

Mr Campany said there was no associated debris or evidence the damage could have been caused by this week's storms.

"The window is made of Perspex which is designed to bend up to four centimetres with any impact, then crack," he said.

" It looks as though an implement has been used to break the window then someone has finished off the job, pushing it out onto the seat."

Since the Mail broke the story of residential unrest last week, Mr Campany said he had received support from "99 per cent" of the local community.

But until the fellow pilot came to Mr Campany's rescue with the replacement door yesterday, the Wild Blue operator said he was considering shutting the business down.

"The worst case scenario is that we will have to shut the doors before Christmas, best case scenario is that we can get through another summer season but I don't think we can go through this again," he said.

" I'm devastated and I take it personally.

"It's taken away my sole form of income, so I have to sit down with my family now and talk about whether we take the machine back and wrap everything up.

"Without this I can't even pay my rent."

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority would not comment on the incident, saying it was a police matter.

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