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Pilot Not At Fault In Plane Crash: Report

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday announced the findings of the independent forensic engineer, Andrew McGregor of New Zealand-based Prosolve Ltd.
25 May 2019 10:10
Pilot Not At Fault In Plane Crash: Report
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (second from left) with the late Merelesita Lutu’s family members. Photo: DEPTFO News

Iliesa Tawalo, the pilot flying the Cessna 172 when it crashed in Macuata last year was not at fault in the tragic incident, reveals Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Aviation, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday announced the findings of the independent forensic engineer, Andrew McGregor of New Zealand-based Prosolve Ltd.

Cessna 172 had crashed in the mountainous region of Delaikoro, Macuata, in February last year claiming the lives of instructor Iliesa Tawalo and student pilot Merelesita Lutu.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said that when the aircraft had departed from the Labasa airport, it was likely the visibility and cloud coverage complied with visual flight rules and were in accordance with Fiji’s Air and Navigation Regulations.

“However, soon after departing Labasa, weather conditions and visibility across the mountains quickly deteriorated, thereby entrapping the aircraft without an escape route and causing it to impact the steep mountainous terrain,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“When they left, they had not made a dangerous decision in that sense; it was within the range of compliance.”

He added in tropical climates like Fiji there can be sudden changes in the weather patterns which was what had happened in this case.

“The pilot did everything possible that he should be doing,” he said.

“With the bad weather coming, he flew around and tried to get out of it, so there is no assignment of blame to the pilot in respect of what he did, it was more to do with the weather pattern.”

The flying instructor was the pilot in command with a total of 1257 hours of flying experience at the time of the accident.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it had cost the Government $200,000 to bring the investigator in and get the report done.

He added the report had issued several recommendations including the requirement for general aviation pilots to undergo mountain flying training and the development of a new training and information module on Fiji’s climatology.

“The latter would focus on Fiji’s unique weather patterns including the risks and unpredictable nature of tropical low-pressure trough weather systems and facilitating improvements in weather briefing service of pilots,” he said.

“The department of civil aviation will work closely on the implementation of the recommendations to ensure Fijian pilots are better prepared for risks involved in mountain flying and unpredictable weather changes.

“The Solicitor General who is also the Permanent secretary responsible for the department of civil aviation will be meeting with all the stakeholders over the next month to ensure the recommendations of the report do get implemented.”

Edited by Susana Tuilau

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