Pilot error, safety lapses in aircraft crash

Posted on November 14, 2012

PILOT ERROR and lapses in safety procedures have been blamed for the plane crash that killed Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo nearly three months ago, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III said yesterday.

"Bagaman marami ang nagsabing ekspertong piloto si Captain Jessup M. Bahinting, wala siyang angkop na karanasan at kasanayan sa one-engine inoperative emergency [Despite claims that Captain Jessup M. Bahinting is an expert pilot, he has no experience and expertise in handling one-engine inoperative emergency]," he told a press conference in Malacañang.

"Malinaw ito nang nabigo niyang panatilihin ang ligtas na paglipad ng eroplano nang iisang makina na lamang ang gumagana [It was clear that he failed to fly the plane with only one functioning engine]," he added, citing the report submitted yesterday by the special investigation committee of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

A Piper Seneca plane -- owned by AviaTours Fly’N, Inc. -- that carried Mr. Robredo crashed off Masbate province on Aug. 18. Mr. Bahinting’s student copilot, Kshitize Chand, also died in the incident. The lone survivor was the late secretary’s aide, Sr. Insp. Jun Paolo Abrazado.

Capt. Amado H. Soliman, chief of the CAAP accident investigation board, said in a succeeding presentation that Mr. Bahinting, who is also the owner of AviaTours, has only 17 hours of flight record for a Piper Seneca plane.

The pilot’s license renewal "did not cover one-engine inoperative emergency during his proficiency flight," he added.

"It will always end in an accident if the pilot does not have training," he further said.

Corruption in the aviation regulatory body has been cited as another possible culprit.

Citing documents, Mr. Aquino said CAAP Airworthiness Inspector Fernando Abalos approved AviaTour’s bid for approval of the plane’s new right engine even without a test flight clearance.

"Malinaw po ang ginawa nilang panlilinlang at pandaraya. Ang naging kabayaran: buhay ng tatlong tao [Their deceit and cheating was clear. And the result is the death of three people]," he said.

In the same press conference, CAAP Director-General William K. Hotchkiss III said he will form an investigating team to look into "administrative and criminal culpabilities of CAAP officials" who were identified in the case.

Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya, for his part, said his department will impose additional safety nets to ensure strict adherence to procedures.

To this end, 39 flight schools, 24 maintenance organizations and 21 air taxi operators will be subject to audit in a bid to ensure that these underwent proper licensing procedures.

"Lahat po ng permit at lisensiyang inaprubahan ng CAAP, muli nating pinapa-audit, at kung may makita tayong dumaan sa shortcut at lumabag sa mga nakasaad sa Philippine civil air regulations, agad po nating babawiin [All permits and licenses approved by CAAP will be re-audited, and those found noncompliant to Philippine civil air regulations procedures will be withdrawn]," Mr. Aquino said.

Responding to the CAAP accident report, Ma. Leonor "Leni" G. Robredo, wife of the late secretary, hoped that lessons from the crash will help improve air travel in the country.

"Ang buong prosesong ito ang naghatid sa atin sa pagwawakas, at masakit man ang mga aral na iniwan nito, umaasa akong ang resulta ng imbestigasyon ay magbibigay-daan sa pagsagip ng maraming buhay at sa higit na kaligtasan ng lahat ng pasahero ng mga sasakyang panghimpapawid [This whole process has brought our search for closure to an end. Despite the hurt that it left, I hope the results of the investigation will pave the way for lives saved and more importantly safety of all air passengers]," she said in a statement posted on the government’s official Web site -- Antonio Siegfrid O. Alegado