Wednesday 21 August, 2019

JCAA backs integrity of 2016 plane crash investigation

Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) Chairman, Phillip Henriques (left) and Director General, Nari Williams-Singh, in discussion at a press conference the authority recently hosted at its St Andrew office. (Photo: Marlon Reid)

Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) Chairman, Phillip Henriques (left) and Director General, Nari Williams-Singh, in discussion at a press conference the authority recently hosted at its St Andrew office. (Photo: Marlon Reid)

The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) is refuting claims made by the owner of the Caribbean Aviation Training Centre (CATC), Captain Errol Stewart, that the body acted inappropriately in disseminating information that was not factual in the report on the investigation of the November 2016 plane crash in St Andrew.

In outlining details about the finding of the investigation at a press conference at its Winchester Road offices in St Andrew, Director General of the JCAA, Nari Williams-Singh, said the authority acted entirely in the ambit of international guidelines, with assistance from the United States of America as well as the manufacturers of the ill-fated aircraft.

Stewart had sought to discredit the findings in two media reports on Monday and Tuesday, which the JCAA responded to at the press briefing, with a four-point outline that gave insights into the investigation of the accident after the plane crashed shortly after take-off from the Tinson Pen Aerodrome on November 10, 2016.

The plane had taken off on a training mission, and went down in the Greenwich Farm community, bursting into flames and killing instructor Jonathan Worton and trainee pilots Danshuvar Gilmore, 19 and Ramone Forbes, 17.

Accompanied by Chairman Phillip Henriques, Williams-Singh dismissed the claim by Stewart that the JCAA was conflicted, since it was investigating itself.

Williams-Singh said the investigator in charge was appointed in accordance with the Civil Aviation Act, and acted independently of the JCAA.

According to Williams-Singh, the investigation was done jointly with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States, as the crashed aircraft was registered in that country, with engine manufacturer, Lycoming, and the aircraft manufacturer, Cessna, giving technical advice.

Williams-Singh also dismissed Stewart's claim that the ring gear pictured in the report did not belong to the crashed Cessna, as it was painted red, which indicated falsification of the component in question.

Williams-Singh admitted that the photo in the official report was not the actual one that was taken from the aircraft, but was supplied by Lycoming in reference to a starter ring gear which was attached to the engine crankshaft of the aeroplane during the investigation.

This, according to Williams-Singh, was done to determine the measurements and specifications which allowed the engine manufacturers to determine that the engine's internal timing was incorrect.

With regards to Williams-Singh's third claim that his institution could not have created a forged work order for an engine that was not on the aircraft, Williams-Singh said the investigator requested on numerous occasions, an authorised release certification or a copy of the work order to overhaul the aircraft engine. He said the document was never given.

He said, "as such, the investigator, through the NTSB, then sought to procure the work order from the Engine Repair Facility, which was identified in the engine logbook. The named engine repair facility was contacted by the NTSB, and the engine repair facility responded that they had never worked on that engine, rendering the engine overhaul documentation fraudulent."

According to Williams-Singh, Stewart's claim of submitting a rebuttal to the report findings in October, was false, as all records show that the JCAA only received his document in February. He said it was reviewed by the accident investigator, who determined that it was not of value for there to be an adjustment to the final accident report.

Meanwhile, Williams-Singh said the JCAA has already started putting in place procedures to improve the regulation of the maintenance of aircraft at training schools in Jamaica, with only one school fully operational now after the licence of CATC was withdrawn.

He said the JCAA is undergoing a recertification process with CATC, which will have to meet the requirements of the JCAA before being allowed to operate again.

Williams-Singh also said the JCAA, before the accident, operated within the guidelines to ensure that planes operating at the institution were at the required standard. He said the process involved maintenance procedure manual and a maintenance control manual being approved for CATC.

He said that there would also be a maintenance programme with inspectors from the JCAA ensuring that the checks were carried out in accordance with these procedures.

Williams-Singh, however, said it was incumbent on the operator of an aircraft to keep the maintenance within the ambit of the requirements, that the facilities being used are appropriately rated and qualified, and also do their due diligence. He said the operator should have also ensured that the documentation provided to the inspectors are genuine.

Henriques said, "the JCAA believes that it is important to shed light on these matters because as the entity tasked with regulatory and oversight responsibility for Jamaica's aviation industry, it is our duty to ensure that the facts about this very unfortunate accident are made clear, to ensure that an event such as this never happens again."

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