Friday, April 01, 2011

Clouds, crew factors in air crash

BAD weather and inadequate pilot experience contributed to the 2009 Kokoda plane crash which killed all 13 people on board, including nine Australians, transport investigators said in their final report released yesterday, The National reports. The Airlines PNG flight, captained by Jannie Moala, slammed into the side of a hill as it made its way to Kokoda from Port Moresby on Aug 11, 2009.
According to Civil Aviation’s aviation investigation commission, the plane crashed while in controlled flight, meaning there had been nothing wrong with the plane itself.
Although the day had been very cloudy, the crew had attempted a descent using visuals only and it did enter a stage where instruments needed to be used.
The co-pilot had not been qualified to fly using instruments.
Senior AIC investigator Sid O’Toole said that the aircraft was well-equipped in terms of its multifunctional unit including navigational, weather, terrain avoidance and warning systems.
“When the crew commenced the descent through the Kokoda Gap in the reported rapidly changing weather conditions, they committed themselves to a course of action that they could not be assured of completing safely,” the report said.
The difficult conditions of the flight would have tested the crew, it added.
“It was probable that during the descent, the crew were required to manoeuvre the aircraft to remain clear of cloud, or regain that status, and in so doing, impacted terrain,” the report concluded.
The crash happened around 11.14am, about 20 minutes after it took off from Jackson International Airport.
The AIC attributed some responsibility to Airlines PNG, saying it had no emergency procedures in place should pilots needed to rely primarily on flight instruments.
But it also did not rule out the possibility that the co-pilot had become incapacitated before the crash, although it noted he had appeared to be in good health.
In response to the accident, the civil aviation safety authority is in the process of legislating for cockpit voice recorders to be installed in all aircraft that carry nine or more people.
CASA PNG has also set up a new chief medical officer position and shifted responsibility for incident reporting to the accident investigation commission.
Despite PNG being a signatory to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, it previously had neither a compulsory or voluntary reporting system.
Airlines PNG has also since employed new visual flight procedures.

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