Air crash probe to focus on take-off time, pilot licences

Investigators will be determining why the Cessna 406 aircraft, which tragically crashed and claimed three lives in Windhoek on Friday, was doing a test flight at around 17h00.

The crash of the aircraft, owned by Westair Aviation, claimed the lives of pilots Rozanne De Beer-Olivier (33) and Ruan van Schalkwyk (24), and aircraft engineer Andre-Armand Lubbe (25).

Small pieces of the Cessna, which is now 90% destroyed, have since been gathered and moved to an independent facility for investigations.

Magnus Abraham, the head of the Directorate of Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigations in the Ministry of Works and Transport, yesterday told The Namibian that an investigation into the crash would officially start today.

The investigation will extend to scrutinising the two pilots’ licences and examining the aircraft’s engine to understand the cause of the crash, which occurred just a few minutes after taking off from Eros Airport.

The Namibian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Westair Aviation will also be investigated.

Abraham said the directorate will investigate the whole system and not just what caused the engines to cease.

“We are going to look into the vigilance of Westair, also why the test was done on Friday at 17h00, what was the aircraft’s purpose, what was done and what quality checks and procedures were followed,” he said.

“We believe not only one factor has caused the crash. That is why we are going to look at the crew involved, look into their training, what they have done and what they did not do from the time that they took off.”

The aircraft, owned by Westair Aviation, was manufactured in France by United States manufacturers, while its engines were made in Canada by Pratt & Whitney.

“We had a meeting with the operator at the crash site and seized all the documents of the crew and the aircraft. On Saturday as in terms of the protocols, we sent a notification to the manufacturer as mandated within 48 hours. They have acknowledged that,” Abraham said.

“The manufacturer needs to participate in the investigations, because we already know there was a malfunction and a mechanical issue with the engines.

“We have sent the information to Canada and they have responded that they would assist us at no cost and they would travel. We have agreed that they would travel this week,” he said.

The aircraft had no black box/flight data recorder, a device that records and logs every action an aircraft takes while in flight.

Abraham said the directorate would also rely on CCTV camera footage from the airport and from residential streets to investigate the crash.

“Some 90% of the plane is damaged, because it is composite material and it was with fuel that is highly flammable. We will put it under the extreme that it is destroyed.

Westair Aviation has announced the names of its three employees who died on the spot when an F 406 plane belonging to WestAir Aviation crashed in Windhoek’s Pioneerspark late yesterday. NBC Digital News

“What we have brought from the scene is the leftovers of the plane that has burnt out. The engine has also burnt out, but most of it is steel, which has not completely burnt out,” he said.

West Air Group of Companies spokesperson Elzanne McCulloch over the weekend said the catastrophic incident has affected the whole company.

“Westair Aviation regrets to confirm a total loss of one of its aircraft, a Cessna 406, registration V5-ASB. We can confirm that sadly, three persons on board this non-commercial flight, all employees of Westair Aviation, did not survive the incident.”

The executive director of the NCAAC, Toska Sem, on Friday said the authority is committed to working closely with the Directorate of Aircraft Accident Investigations.

“We will provide them with all the necessary support and resources to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident.

Further information from the police report indicates that at least two houses were damaged in Rieckmann Street at Pionierspark.

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