Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Trainee pilot was a hero in November 2013 TropicAir crash

The Australian trainee pilot who was one of three people who lost their lives in the Tropicair Cessna Grand Caravan in Western last November helped the pilot from when the engine failed until it crashed, according to a preliminary report released by the PNG Accident Investigation Commission last month.

Wreckage of the aircraft being transported by barge to Panakawa.-Pictures courtesy of
PNG Accident Investigation Commission.

Location of SAH in the river approximately 24 hours after the accident.
Ground witness marks on Kibeni airstrip.

On Nov 25, 2013, the aircraft registered P2-SAH departed Kamusi, Western, for Purari River, Gulf, at approximately 1.51pm on a charter flight.
The aircraft was carrying the pilot and nine passengers, one of whom, in the right pilot seat was a pilot about to begin training with the operator, plus freight and baggage.
“Approximately two minutes into the cruise there was a loud ‘pop’ followed by a complete loss of engine power,” the report said.
The pilot was assisted by the passenger in the right pilot seat, who switched on the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) and began broadcasting ‘mayday’.
“Checking the database in the global positioning system (GPS), the pilot found the airstrip at Kibeni on the eastern side of the Palbuna River,” the report said.
“Kibeni airstrip is disused, uneven, and short but it was the only open ground in the area on which the pilot could attempt a forced landing.
“The pilot, assisted by the passenger next to him, tried unsuccessfully to restart the engine using the procedure in the aircraft’s quick reference handbook (QRH).
“The passenger continued to give position reports and to communicate with other aircraft.
At about 3,000 feet, the pilot asked for radio silence on the area frequency so he could concentrate on the approach to Kibeni airstrip
“The wheels contacted the ground three times but this did not slow the aircraft enough to enable the pilot to stop it before the end of the airstrip,” the report said.
“In order to clear the trees between the airstrip and the river, the pilot elected to pull up on the control column.
“The aircraft became airborne again, damaging the crown of a coconut palm as it passed over the trees between the end of the airstrip and the river.
“The pilot turned hard left and pushed forward on the control column to avoid stalling the aircraft.
“He levelled the wings before the aircraft impacted the water.
“The aircraft came to rest inverted and partially submerged, and immediately filled with water.
“After a short delay while he gained his bearings under water, the pilot was able to undo his harness and open the left cockpit door.
“He swam to the surface, opened the door at the rear of the fuselage, and helped the surviving passengers to safety on the river bank. “
After approximately 20 minutes, villagers arrived in a canoe and transported the pilot and surviving passengers across the river.
About 90 minutes after the accident, they were airlifted by helicopter to Kopi, located 44 km north east of Kibeni.

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