Probe body finds pilot error, Aviatour negligence as cause of plane crash that killed Robredo – Aquino

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Photo courtesy of Philippine National Red Cross-Masbate Chapter
Photo courtesy of Philippine National Red Cross-Masbate Chapter

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA (13-Nov-2012/PNA) – President Benigno S. Aquino III bared on Tuesday the results of the investigation of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on the ill-fated Piper Seneca that killed Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, saying it was mainly due to pilot error.

The President said three months have passed since the untimely death of Secretary Robredo on August 18, and that “we owe it to the victims to find out what really happened.”

“Heto po and resulta ng imbestigasyon: Bagaman marami ang nagsabing ekspertong piloto si Captain Jessup M. Bahinting, wala siyang angkop na karanasan at kasanayan sa one-engine inoperative emergency,” the President said at a press briefing in Malacanang.

“Malinaw ito nang nabigo niyang (Bahinting) panatilihin ang ligtas na paglipad ng eroplano nang iisang makina na lamang ang gumagana,” he said.

President Aquino also said that 23 minutes after the plane took off at Mactan Airport, the pilot already knew that one of his engines malfunctioned.

“Subalit sa halip na bumalik, tumulak pa rin sila sa Naga. Inabot pa sila ng 70 minuto sa himpapawid bago ang kanilang pagbagsak,” he said.

“Ibig sabihin, kung agad silang bumalik sa Mactan, mataas ang posibilidad na naiwasan ang aksidente,” he noted.

The CAAP also found that Bahinting extended landing gears and flaps even if he was not sure he would be able to land the aircraft, which was contrary to the Piper Seneca Manual Procedures for twin engine planes.

“Ayon sa mga eksperto, dumagdag ito sa ‘drag’ na siyang nagpabagal sa eroplano, hanggang sa hindi na ito makontrol, at tuluyang bumagsak,” the President said.

The CAAP probe body also found that Aviatour’s staff, are not authorized by the manufacturer to serve as aircraft maintenance mechanics.

Aviatour is the company that owns the ill-fated Piper Seneca plane.

“Dahil sa patung-patong at pare-parehong tungkulin ng kanilang (Aviatour) mga opisyal, nagkakaroon ng conflict of interest, kaya hindi nabibigyan ng tamang atensyon ang ligtas na kondisyon ng eroplano,” the President said.

He said there was also collusion between Aviatours and a CAAP inspector who certified to the plane’s airworthiness.

“Base sa ilang papeles na nalikom ng investigation panel, sangkot rin diumano sa kuntsabahan ang Aviatour’s at ang isang inspektor ng CAAP sa tahasang paglabag sa mga regulatory requirements,” he said.

Based on the investigation report, President Aquino said, the right hand propeller of the plane was replaced in November 2011. CAAP inspector Fernando Abalos has cleared the aircraft, saying the result of the test flight was satisfactory. However, the CAAP probe team found no record of the test flight.

“Subalit ayon sa isinagawang imbestigasyon, walang record sa aircraft logbook ang nasabing test flight. Wala ring nakatalang flight plan dito, ayon sa Mactan International airport. Malinaw po ang ginawa nilang panlilinlang at pandaraya,” he said.

To avoid a repeat of the incident, President Aquino said he directed the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and CAAP to implement reforms that would strengthen the aviation industry.

He also ordered for a re-audit of all licenses and permits previously approved by CAAP.

“Kung may makita tayong dumaan sa shortcut at lumabag sa mga nakasaad sa Philippine Civil Air Regulations, agad po nating babawiin,” he said.

The President also ordered for a review of the operational guidelines of Flying Schools, Air Taxi, and other groups related to the aircraft industry in the country.

“Nais nating matiyak na kung hindi ka kwalipikado, hindi ka mabibigyan ng lisensya,” he said.

President Aquino also ordered DOTC and CAAP to improve the mechanism to ensure safety of passengers.

“Obligasyon ng pamunuan ng CAAP na tiyaking may kakayahan at may integridad ang kanilang tauhan. Susuportahan natin sila dito, gayundin sa iba pa nilang layunin at pangangailangan tungo sa mas matatag at mas ligtas na industriyang panghimpapawid,” he said.

Meanwhile, CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss said he already ordered the creation of a special body to look into the civil, administrative and criminal liabilities of those involved in the plane crash, including those within the agency.

He said he assigned CAAP Assistant Director General Abdiel Fajardo to investigate the individuals concerned. (PNA)

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