Swakop crash: Helicopter had no airworthiness certificate

The Directorate of Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation’s preliminary report indicates that the helicopter crash which claimed two lives at Swakopmund last month did not have a valid certificate of airworthiness for South Africa or Namibia.The report, released on Wednesday by works and transport minister John Mutorwa, states that the helicopter arrived in Namibia last year and the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority applied for the registration to be reserved in June 2023. “The regulator did reserve the registration. Despite the reservation, the owner of the helicopter did not proceed with the actual registration process,” he said.

Mutorwa said at the time of the accident, the helicopter was still under the South African registration.

The Robin-44 helicopter crash resulted in the untimely deaths of Jacques Jacobs and Dirk von Weitz. Although the pilot had a valid commercial helicopter pilot licence, the helicopter did not have a test flight permit to perform the test flight.

“Instead of using its original engine, the helicopter was equipped with an engine that previously belonged to a Namibian registered helicopter with the registration V5-HJL (R44),” he said.

According to the report, the aircraft was neither equipped with a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder. Mutorwa said the helicopter was purchased from South Africa and brought into Namibia in February 2022 by the owner on a trailer.

“The owner took it for maintenance inspection and certification. The helicopter and engine required a 12-year inspection.

After all maintenance was completed, the maintenance organisation informed the owner that they were ready for a test flight in July,” he said.

Mutorwa said the purpose of the flight was to conduct final rotor balancing and execute auto-rotations. In July, a woman was arrested in connection with the crash she faces various charges.

Erongo police spokesperson Ileni Shapumba said the woman was arrested in relation to the falsification of the flight test permit, certificate of registration, as well as violation of other civil aviation regulations.

She faces eight charges, including fraud, forgery, and uttering; and six violations of the Namibian civil aviation regulations, which include, among others, falsification, reproduction, or alteration of maintenance documents, requirement of approval, manual of procedure, quality assurance system, and report on defects or non-airworthy conditions.

“The flight test permit used was allegedly forged. The helicopter, not a Namibian, but a South African one; had to be licensed in Namibia before it took flight,” said Shapumba. Mutorwa said the Directorate of Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigations’ report is ongoing and will include all other aspects of the accident, which may or may not have safety implications.

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