Aquino: Safety lapses caused Robredo crash

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A series of lapses in safety procedures, both in flight and on the ground, led to the deadly August 18 crash off Masbate City that killed Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and 2 pilots, according to the results of the investigation conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) into the incident.

President Benigno Aquino III presented the results of the CAAP probe in a press conference Tuesday, November 13.

Aquino summarized the results of the probe in a brief speech that aired live from Malacañang.

1. Capt Jessup Bahinting has no sufficient experience and knowledge in one-engine inoperative emergencies.

"Malinaw ito nang nabigo niyang panatilihin ang ligtas na paglipad ng eroplano nang iisang makina na lamang ang gumagana."

The report said that instead of returning to Mactan when they encountered engine trouble 23 minutes into the flight, Bahinting continued to fly towards Naga City.

"Inabot pa sila ng pitumpung minuto sa himpapawid bago ang kanilang pagbagsak. Ibig sabihin, kung agad silang bumalik sa Mactan, mataas ang posibilidad na naiwasan ang aksidente (It took them an additional 77 minutes before the plane crashed. This means that if the plane returned to Mactan, they could have avoided an accident.)," Aquino said.

2. The lowering of landing gear and flaps on the plane's approach to the Masbate airport were against the Flight Manual Procedures for the Piper Seneca aircraft, especially since they were not sure if they will even reach the runway.

The said maneuver added "drag" and slowed down the plane until it was beyond the pilot's control, which eventually led to the crash.

3. Regulatory requirements were also circumvented by Aviatour's Fly'n Inc, the company that owned the Piper Seneca plane, conniving with an inspector of the CAAP.

Aquino said that in November 2011, the right hand engine propeller of the ill-fated plane was replaced, and the propeller overhaul report was approved in a short span of time.

According to the CAAP report, Nelson Napata, Aviatour's director for maintenance, filed the report, which was immediately approved by CAAP Airworthiness Inspector Fernando Abalos.

CAAP records showed the plane underwent a test flight, but there was no record on the aircraft logbook and no flight plan was filed at the Mactan International Aiport, Aquino said.

'Not acceptable'

"Malinaw po ang ginawa nilang panlilinlang at pandaraya. Ang naging kabayaran: buhay ng tatlong tao (Their deception was clear. It cost the lives of 3 people)," Aquino said.

"Sintomas ito sa paglaganap ng katiwalian sa isang sistemang matagal nang umiiral, na isinasaayos na ngayon ng pamahalaan (This is symptomatic of widespread corruption and an entrenched system that is now being put in order by the government)," he said.

There was also a lack of checks and balances within Aviatour, Aquino said. The investigation revealed that the company's mechanics themselves handled the plane's maintenance, even if they are not authorized by the company.

"Dahil sa patung-patong at pare-parehong tungkulin ng kanilang mga opisyal, nagkakaroon ng conflict of interest, kaya hindi nabibigyan ng tamang atensyon ang ligtas na kondisyon ng eroplano (Because of overlapping responsibilities of their officials, conflict of interest arose, and the airplane's safety was not given proper attention)," he said.

 The President said this is not acceptable, and evidence is still being collected for the filing of appropriate charges.

"Hindi po tayo papayag na manatili ang ganitong kalakaran, kaya naman patuloy po ang paglilikom ng iba pang ebidensya upang mapanagot ang sinumang may pagkukulang sa panig ng Aviatour's, at maging ng CAAP," he said.

With this, Aquino said he has ordered the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to strengthen the CAAP, as well as other related agencies, to hasten the reform of the aviation industry.

"Lahat po ng permit at lisensiyang inaprubahan ng CAAP, muli nating pinapa-audit, at kung may makita tayong dumaan sa shortcut at lumabag sa mga nakasaad sa Philippine Civil Air Regulations, agad po nating babawiin," he said.

Charges, changes

CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss said a new probe will be conducted to look into the possible liability of other CAAP and Aviatour personnel in the crash.

"I have caused the creation of special investigation body to look into the culpabilities---administrative, criminal, whatever culpabilities they are of the personnel involved not just in CAAP but also with those in Aviatour‘s," he said.

He has designated Assistant Director General Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo to look into the matter.

"Whatever is turned up by the investigating body will definitely also feel the brunt of the full implementation of Philippine Civil Air Regulations," the CAAP chief added.

Present at the briefing were Transportation and Communication Sec Joseph Emilio Abaya, Interior and Local Government Sec Mar Roxas, and members of the CAAP team.

Last September 10, CAAP Deputy Director General John Andrews said there was no foul play in the crash.

The CAAP committee was formed last August 27, by way of an authority order issued by Hotchkiss.

The committee was chaired by CAPP Accident Investigation Board Chief Capt Amado Soliman. Members include Philippine Airlines senior vice president Capt. Beda Badiola, Retired Philippine Air Force (PAF) Gen Ramon Ragasa, Cebu Pacific director for safety Felipe Timola Jr and Col Allen Paredes, also of the PAF. -


More on this story: