Fiji crash report is out

By: Peni Komaisavai

A report into the crash of a plane in Vanua Levu in February last year has recommended that improved weather information be provided to pilots to mitigate against the risks posed by bad weather.

Releasing the Department of Civil Aviation report this morning, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum conveyed the government’s deepest condolences to the families of  the flight instructor Iliesa Tawalo and student pilot Merelesita Lutu, who died when their Cessna plane crashed between Savusavu and Labasa on the morning of February 26, 2018.

That report states that the Cessna 172R, DQ-FTR collided with terrain near Mount Delaikoro after the weather had deteriorated and closed in on the aircraft, entrapping it without any escape route.

The report states that the risk faced by the pilot was magnified by mountainous terrain,  which could not only generate high turbulence, including strong down-drafts, but can also further reduce visibility by causing condensation in the form of dense cloud, mist and heavy rain.

“The pilots did not fully understand how to manage this risk, because these types of weather systems are difficult to characterise and predict and are likely to intensify with global warming,” the report states.

It recommends the development of a new training and information module on Fiji’s climatology, in particular the risks and unpredictable nature of tropical low-pressure trough weather systems.

It also recommends that general aviation pilots undertake mountain flying training.

The Department of Civil Aviation will be bringing together stakeholders over the next month to address all recommendations in the report.

Today’s statement also thanked the villagers of Doguru, who led search and rescue efforts though extremely rough terrain when the plane crashed near Mount Delaikoro.

The investigation was undertaken by an independent New Zealand-based forensic engineer, Andrew McGregor.