Investigation Fingers Starbow Cockpit Crew in 2017 Airplane Crash

Minister for Aviation, Cecelia Abena Dapaah, has disclosed that the crash of Starbow aircraft at Kotoko International Airport last November resulted from negligence by the airline’s crew because they did not follow correct procedures when they initiated action to bring the plane to a stop.

The Minister stated that the crew did not select reverse thrust, which would have slowed down the aircraft much faster.

She indicated that there was also loss of situational awareness on the part of the cockpit crew that led to runaway excursion failure to execute the right procedures aborting the take-off.

The Minister revealed these in Parliament when she responded to a parliamentary question that stood in the name of member for Adaklu Constituency, Hon. Kwame Governs Agbodza, who wanted to know what caused the crash of the plane on 25th November, 2017.

Madame Cecelia Dapaah stated that after the accident, the Ministry of Aviation constituted and inaugurated a five member committee in December 2017 to investigate and ascertain the probable causes of the accident and make recommendations to prevent future occurrence.

According to her, the Committee combined meetings, field visits to the accident scene, and interviews with affected stakeholders including passengers, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Ghana Airports Company Limited and operator of the aircraft, Aero Surveys Limited (Starbow).

The manufacturer and owner of the aircraft, she said, were also invited to participate in the investigation.

“As part of the investigation, two members of the Committee travelled to Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses (BEA) in France with the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) to be decoded to give real time sequence of events that happened in the aircraft and also display all the avionic information.”

According to the Minister, the investigation established that the weather deteriorated rapidly before takeoff, which resulted in heavy down pour.

The aircraft, she said, gradually drifted off the runway during the take-off run without the crew appreciating it as a result of the severity of the weather.

She indicated that the captain’s seat accidentally moved backward in the process, compelling him to transfer control of the aircraft to the co-pilot.

The crew, she said, then initiated action to bring the aircraft to a stop but failed to execute the right procedures aborting the take-off.

She added, “Most importantly they did not select reverse thrust which would have slowed down the aircraft much faster and there was also lack of adequate coordination among the crew during the flight.”

Madame Cecelia stated that the Aviation Ministry is taking measures in collaboration with stakeholders in the industry to make air transport safe and also curtail the re-occurrence of accidents in the future.

These measures, she said, include: Review of Standard Operational Procedures (SOPS) and responses of all first respondents at Ghana Airports Company Limited; Management of Air Traffic Control at GCAA to ensure all staff are familiar with all requirements of accidents and incident procedures contained in existing SOPs; and GCAA to establish a standing preliminary investigation team with approved procedures, which will include the authority to request medical and toxicology tests.

The rest of the measures are: Starbow to review its operational control and ensure it hires adequate qualified operational personnel and arrange a re-training of its crew to include Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) and aborted take-off procedures.

Starbow is also tasked to ensure that the Airworthiness Directive (AD) No. 2016-0256 is effected on all subsequent ATRs before they are added to their fleet; and for pilots to exercise extra caution when taking off in adverse weather conditions.

By Osumanu Al-Hassan/uthmanhass@gmail.com

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