GCAA launches probe into ASL plane crash

-Director-General to meet with local operators on safety

The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has officially launched an investigation to identify the cause of Sunday’s fatal plane crash, which claimed the life of Air Services Limited (ASL) pilot Imran Khan.

Imran Khan

Khan, 41, was conducting his second shuttle mission for the day when the plane he was operating crashed into the jungle between Chi-Chi and Mahdia in Region Eight.

According to a statement issued by the GCAA yesterday, the investigations will be undertaken by the Accident and Incident Investigation Group (AIG), which is expected to examine all possible factors that could have contributed to the crash, including the weather conditions, the pilot’s flight and duty hours, and the type of operations the pilot was conducting.

Additionally, the statement said Director General of the GCAA Lt. Col. (ret’d) Egbert Field is expected to meet with all domestic operators tomorrow to discuss safety issues and other matters in light of this latest accident.

In the meantime, it added, the aviation authority has committed to conducting surveillance and inspection of air operators, aircraft and other aspects of aviation operations with more frequency.

The announcement comes on the heels of Minister of State Joseph Harmon indicating that the GCAA had been asked to ramp up checks and inspections of aircraft and facilities.

Harmon, in a press statement, noted that it was the third plane crash in less than two months and the government was deeply concerned.

“We have asked the Director of Civil Aviation for there to be more frequent levels of inspection of these aircrafts, of the pilots and the facilities they use to ensure that there is a higher level of safety in these operations. We, as a small country, cannot continue to lose young men in the prime of their lives to accidents. We are calling on the Director to increase [the] level of investigation and oversight over all of the operators to ensure that the serviceability of these aircrafts are checked, that the time and hours of the pilots, which they fly must also be checked and this must not just be a one off check but a regular check and also time and again, what we call ramp checks [random checks],” he was quoted as saying.

GCAA, in its statement yesterday, noted that it has commenced the State Safety Programme (SSP) as mandated by the Inter-national Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and is currently in the implementation stage.

The elements of this programme, as explained by the aviation authority, were introduced to service providers at a workshop held in July 2017 as a precursor for the Safety Management System (SMS) which all operators are expected to implement.

“The GCAA continues to be proactive, and is diligently working with airline operators to ensure that their SMS programmes develop and function effectively. The successful implementation of SSP and SMS will help to identify the hazards within the aviation sector and manage risks to the safety of passengers, operators and the aircraft. The GCAA remains committed towards creating a safe, secure and modern civil aviation sector, and to reduce the current number of aircraft accidents,” the authority said.

Meanwhile, though it was reported by Stabroek News that Khan’s body would be brought back to the city yesterday, ASL executive Annette Arjoon-Martins yesterday afternoon stated that this has since been postponed until today since bad weather impeded the flight that was expected to return Khan’s body to the city.

A preliminary report received by the GCAA indicated that Khan’s plane, an ASL Cessna 206 aircraft with registration number 8R-GFM, was scheduled to land at Mahdia at approximately 8.47 am on Sunday but failed to do so. A distress signal was received at approximately 9.08 am, which initiated a search operation by all domestic operators within the vicinity of the last known location of the aircraft.

The crash site was subsequently identified at 12.56 pm that same day and a team from the GDF was deployed to the area to recover the pilot. However, due to the terrain, the rescue team had to trek for approximately three hours, cutting through thick vegetation, to reach the crash site from the landing zone, where they eventually recovered the body of Khan.

This was later confirmed by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), which in a press statement issued last evening said, “The Search and Rescue team deployed to Region Eight has reported terrible weather conditions and loss of sunlight causing delays in the extraction. After feverish attempts the rescue pilots were unable to have a visual of the extraction point.”

The statement further noted that the mission will be completed today, depending on the prevailing conditions.

Khan’s death comes a month after the passing of another pilot in a crash.

On July 25, 39-year-old Collin Winston Martin, the chief medical evacuation pilot for Roraima Airlines, died after his plane crashed while approaching the Eteringbang airstrip in Region Seven.

Chief Executive Officer of Roraima Captain Gerry Gouveia said Captain Martin, who was flying solo at the time of the accident, was returning from Ekereku, with another Roraima- owned aircraft behind him when the crash occurred.

Martin was returning from a trip to the Ekereku Mountains, where he had delivered fuel to miners earlier in the day.

On August 8, a single engine Cessna aircraft, bearing registration number 8R-GPR, crashed shortly after takeoff at the Eteringbang airstrip in Region Seven. The pilot suffered minor injuries.

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