HASTY INTERIM REPORT BY CONGOLESE CIVIL AVIATION BLAMES PILOT ERROR
The unusual haste of publishing an interim report of the Kisangani crash of a ancient Hewa Bora Boeing 727 speaks volumes, at least for aviation observers, who have followed the history of the airline and kept an eye on the evolving investigation. Interim reports, leave alone final reports concluding an aviation accident investigation, often take very long periods of time, to allow for thorough analysis of the aircraft’s voice and data recorders and look over the debris with the aim to establish if any technical faults have plagued the aircraft. Airline maintenance records too are subjected to intense scrutiny and forensic audits by civil aviation investigators as in the past flaws in maintenance procedures of even the use of spare parts not sanctioned by the manufacturers have led to accidents.
Industry observers are divided here on the interpretation of the swift declaration of pilot error, blaming the pilot in command of the stricken craft, while only little mention and emphasis is given to the fact that the crew was not given up to date weather data and that air traffic controllers in Kisangani gave misleading information on the weather ahead of the aircraft’s attempt to land. In the absence of the full review of the flight data recorder, which, though not state of the art, could still give clues if for instance a wind shear could have forced the plane down, many analysts are cautious to accept the investigators ‘interim report’ and some even dismissed it as ‘premature, ill researched and probably attributed to the lack of investigative experience’. There is also speculation that ‘external factors’ could have played a role in the swift ‘conclusion’ as the airline’s AOC has been suspended following their latest crash and the owners reportedly being ‘extremely keen’ to see it restored to resume operations.
‘Interim conclusion’ here is that heaping the blame on the pilots is a convenient scapegoat. Let the records be produced on pilot training by the airline, the true maintenance records, the quality and reliability of weather service information in the Congo, the specific weather conditions prevailing on the day of the accident and the competence of the air traffic controllers who passed the fatally wrong information about the weather in Kisangani to the crew, and most important, if a wind shear could have been the cause, which – had the crew known – would have prevented them from landing at that time.
Questions galore over the latest crash in a long line of aviation disasters which have been plaguing the Congo DR over the past decades and made it arguably the most dangerous country to take a domestic flight.