Plane crash probe followed int’l standards, says JCAA

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THE Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) says investigations into the November 2016 crash of a Cessna aircraft belonging to the Caribbean Aviation Training Centre (CATC) in Greenwich Town were done according to international standards.

The crash, which occurred shortly after the plane’s take-off from its base at the nearby Tinson Pen Aerodrome, resulted in the death of three people — 30-year-old flight instructor, Captain Jonathon Worton, and trainee pilots Danshuvar Gilmore, 19, and Ramone Forbes, 17 — who were all affiliated to the CATC.

JCAA Director General Nari Williams-Singh told a press briefing at the authority’s Winchester Road head office that the investigator in charge, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), was appointed in accordance with the Civil Aviation Act and had acted independently of the JCAA.

“The investigation was conducted jointly with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States. The NTSB is an accredited party to the investigation, as the aircraft was manufactured and registered in the United States,” Williams-Singh said.

He pointed out that the aircraft engine manufacturer, Lycoming, and the manufacturer, Cessna, were technical advisors to the NTSB.

“It is, therefore, disingenuous to suggest that the JCAA was investigating itself, given the participation of the aforementioned third parties,” the JCAA director general said. He was responding to a statement published last Monday in the press, which suggested that the findings of the authority’s report on the circumstances which led to the crash were based on false information.

CATC head, Captain Errol Stewart, had challenged some of the conclusions of the report, claiming that the findings were based on false information, and suggesting that the JCAA was effectively investigating itself, given its overall responsibility for flight operations in Jamaica.

Opposition spokesman on transport, Mikael Phillips, had also joined the chorus raising the issue that there was no comment from the JCAA or Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montage on the report.

Williams-Singh admitted that the report had been placed on its website, but was later removed in deference to the family of the victims of the crash. However, it was placed back on the site after Thursday’s briefing. Also, he insisted on the credibility of the report, noting that the NTSB is an accredited party to the investigation.

In response to Stewart’s statements about the work order the JCAA director general noted that during the investigations, the NTSB requested, on numerous occasions, for the CATC to provide an authorised release certificate, or a copy of the work order relating to work carried out to overhaul the aircraft engine. The documentation was, however, not forthcoming, he said.

As such, Williams-Singh stated that the investigator, through the NTSB, sought to procure the work order from the engine repair facility which was identified in the engine’s logbook.

“The named engine repair facility was contacted by the National Transportation Safety Board, and the engine repair facility responded that they had never worked on that engine…” the JCAA director general said.

In response to Stewart’s claim that an eight-page rebuttal was submitted to the JCAA in October 2018, challenging some of the report’s findings but was never included in the final report, Williams-Singh said that the JCAA had no record and did not receive the rebuttal document in October 2018, as suggested by Captain Stewart.

He said that, however, the JCAA eventually received the document on February 19, 2019, at which time it was reviewed by the accident investigator and it was determined that the concerns raised by Captain Stewart in the document would not give cause to adjust the findings and conclusions of the final accident report.

Also addressing another issue raised by Stewart in the press recently, the JCAA director general admitted that a ring gear pictured in the report did not belong to the crashed Cessna as it was painted red, which indicates falsification of the component.

He said that the photo appearing in the official report is that of the engine manufacturer Lycoming’s reference starter ring gear, not the actual part taken from the aircraft.

The engine manufacturer attached the reference Starter Ring Gear to the engine crankshaft during the investigations to determine measurements and specifications. From the measurements, it was determined by the engine manufacturer that the engine’s internal timing was incorrect, he noted.

Williams-Singh said it should be noted that in the final report there were also some recommendations from NTSB regarding the operations of the JCAA.

“We acknowledge these, have assessed them, and have begun implementing the recommendations. We will continue to proactively implement processes and procedures to strengthen the safety of our aviation industry,” he said.

He added that the JCAA believes that by publishing the report it would be providing an opportunity for all named parties to review their policies and procedures, and make the changes necessary “to ensure that a tragedy of this nature never reoccurs”.

“We remain wholly committed to our role as the regulating authority for Jamaican aviation, and will continue working assiduously, in conjunction with our partners, to maintain high standards of safety in the Jamaican aviation industry,” he said.

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