ROBREDO’S Plane Crash is due to Pilot Error

ROBREDO’S Plane Crash is due to Pilot Error

A mixture of sadness and dismay was what President Aquino felt after
investigators released their report mainly blaming the pilot for the
Aug. 18 plane crash that killed Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and two
others, including the pilot himself. 

A special investigation committee cited various errors by Capt.
Jessup Bahinting, the most flagrant being his failure to turn back the
plane to Cebu after an engine malfunctioned, showing a lack of
experience to handle an emergency situation. 

The committee also blamed engine failure and poor management by
AviaTour’s Fly’n Inc., including Bahinting’s supposed connivance with
officers of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for
the issuance of a certificate of airworthiness without proper tests.

The plane crashed into the Masbate Sea.

Mr. Aquino has informed Robredo’s widow, Leni, and her three daughters of the findings.

“When
I first read the initial results of the investigation, I felt a mixture
of sadness and dismay,” Mr. Aquino told reporters. 

“The pieces of evidence pointed to one thing: If some people did
their job, if the rules of the industry were followed, if those involved
were only faithful to their obligations, the tragedy could have been
avoided,” he said.

Option of turning back


Mr. Aquino said Bahinting lacked the proper experience and
training for “one-engine inoperative emergency” even though some said he
was an expert pilot. 

“It’s clear he failed to fly the plane safely on one operating
engine. Apart from this, 23 minutes after taking off from Mactan, he
became aware that the engine malfunctioned, but instead of turning back,
they flew ahead to Naga,” he said. 

“They were airborne for 70 minutes before the plane crashed. That
means, if they had turned back immediately to Mactan, there was a high
possibility the accident could have been avoided,” Mr. Aquino said. 

The ill-fated Piper Seneca took off from Cebu International
Airport for Naga at around 3 p.m. At about 4:25 p.m., it crashed into
the waters of Masbate, killing Robredo, Bahinting and his copilot
Kshitiz Chand, from  Nepal.

Key errors

 

Robredo’s aide, Senior Insp. June Abrazado, survived, swimming through a hole in the plane to shore. 

Malacañang honored Robredo with a state funeral.

The committee, chaired by Capt. Amado
Soliman Jr., cited several key errors by the pilot, but the most
flagrant was: “When the right-hand engine became problematic, he
continued to fly away from Cebu instead of turning back.” 

While one engine had problems, both engines
were still functioning and continued to do so for 30 minutes. And Cebu
has the most modern air navigation and communication equipment, the
longest runway, the widest airstrip, the most advanced and most trained
crash, fire and rescue equipment, and personnel, it added. 

“Mostly
it was the pilot’s inability to control that aircraft on an emergency
situation where he lost one engine,” Soliman said. 

The other errors cited by the panel were:

  • The pilot had no previous experience on the flight route.
  • The pilot lost situational awareness with regard to the plane’s relative position to Masbate Airport.
  • The pilot’s license renewal did not cover “one-engine inoperative emergency” during his proficiency flight.
  • Upon entering Masbate airspace, the pilot undertook improper
    approach procedures, such as premature extension of landing gears and
    flaps, and improper approach maneuver.

Against procedures

Mr. Aquino said Bahinting’s premature
extension of the landing gear and flaps ran counter to the Piper Seneca
Flight Manual Procedures for twin-engine planes.

“According to the experts, this contributed
to the ‘drag’ that slowed down the plane until this could no longer be
controlled and it crashed,” he said. 

Accordingly, pilot error caused the crash,
and Bahinting “improperly handled a one-engine inoperative emergency,”
Soliman said during a PowerPoint presentation. 

Soliman said: “Among airline pilots, single
engine is just a routine maneuver. I don’t know why in general
aviation, there seems to be a problem. Even if you lose an engine—a twin
or a multi-engine aircraft—it doesn’t have to end in an accident. But
it will end in an accident if the pilot lacks the training to handle
that aircraft during an emergency situation flight having lost one
engine.” 

“It could have gone back to Cebu and still
landed with two engines because the engine conked out 37 minutes after
the first indication of trouble. So he was only 23 minutes out of
Mactan. He could have very well gone back to Mactan and land with two
engines.” 

Hard starting

The committee concluded that the right-hand
engine experienced “hard starting” after the installation of an
overhauled propeller, but this was not recorded in the aircraft logbook. 

Specifically, two screws that held the
idler gear shaft in place had “material failure.” The bent edge of the
lock plate that was supposed to lock the screw in place was also found
broken.

The committee concluded the stoppage of the
right-hand engine caused the emergency, saying the stoppage was “likely
caused” by intermittent fuel supply and erratic engine firing, and the
intermittent fuel supply was caused by parts failure due to bad
maintenance. 

It
noted that AviaTour’s was not certified by the aircraft manufacturer
and by CAAP to conduct maintenance work on the aircraft. 

The committee found flaws in the management of AviaTour’s, including the improper issuance of an airworthiness certificate.

Airworthiness

Airworthiness inspector Fernando Abalos
approved the test flight permit for renewal of the airworthiness
certificate for the plane on Jan. 7, 2012,  but there was no record in
the aircraft logbook of the test flight, the committee said. 

A check with Mactan airport log showed no flight plan for the plane was filed on that day, it added. 

Capt. Federico Omolon, AviaTour’s flight
instructor, testified that Bahinting asked him to sign the flight test
report even though he did not fly the plane on Jan. 7, the committee
said. 

On Jan. 17, Abalos endorsed the application
for airworthiness certificate renewal and an entry in the database
showed the documents for such a renewal had been reviewed by Abalos. On
Feb. 2, the certificate of airworthiness was released to Armand Gozum of
AviaTour’s, but this was predated to Jan. 7. 

‘Deception and fraud’

“Captain Bahinting connived with
airworthiness inspector Abalos to expedite the processing and approval
of the certificate of airworthiness,” the committee concluded. 

“It was clear that they committed deception
and fraud. The cost: The lives of three people,” the President said.
“This is a symptom of an anomaly in a system that has long prevailed,
and which we are now addressing. We will not allow this system to
continue. That’s why evidence would continue to be gathered to hold
accountable those who have shortcomings on the part of AviaTour and even
the CAAP.” 

Mr. Aquino ordered an audit of  the permits
and licenses issued by the CAAP and the strengthening of the rules for
the operations of  flying schools and airtaxis. 

“We don’t want this tragedy to happen to
anyone,” he said. “Jesse would want us to learn from the tragedy that
befell him. Let’s not allow his passing to come to naught.” 

CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss III
ordered the creation of a special investigating committee to look into
the administrative and criminal culpabilities of CAAP and AviaTour’s
personnel. 

“AviaTour has been suspended but not its personnel, not yet. We need to go through due process,” Hotchkiss said.                                                                                   SOURCE: Inquirer

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