By CHARLES MOI
AN investigation into the Air Niugini Boeing 737 crash in the Federated States of Micronesia last September found that while both pilots were licensed and qualified, they failed to follow certain standard procedures.
The aircraft crashed into the sea short of the runway of the Chuuk international airport in the Federated States of Micronesia on Sept 28.
One passenger, an Indonesian believed not to be wearing a seatbelt during the impact, died. His body was found inside the aircraft later.
The 12 crew members and 34 passengers were rescued from the aircraft before it submerged by locals in boats.
The pilot, a Papua New Guinean aged 52, had more than 19,000 flying hours.
The co-pilot, an Australian aged 35, had over 4000 hours of flying time.
The Chuuk State Hospital medical examiner stated that both were “not affected by drugs or alcohol”.
The flight was from Pohnpei to Chuuk.
In the 116-page report, the commission stated that the pilots failed to ensure they had the required flight documents prior to departure from Port Moresby.
They only had one Random Area Navigation (GPS) Rwy 04 chart for Chuuk.
“The flight crew did not comply with Air Niugini Standard Operating Procedures Manual (SOPM) and the approach and pre-landing checklists.
The RNAV (GPS) Rwy 04 Approach chart procedure was not adequately briefed.
In addition, the report stated “the pilots’ actions and statements indicated that they had lost situational awareness from 625 feet on the approach (to the airport) and their attention had become channelised and fixated on completing the approach and landing the aircraft”.
It also said the flight crew’s level of compliance with Air Niugini Standard Operating Procedures Manual was not at a standard that would promote safe aircraft operations.
“The copilot as the support pilot was ineffective and was oblivious to the rapidly unfolding unsafe situation,” the report stated.
“He did not recognise the significant unsafe condition and therefore did not realise the need to challenge the pilot in command and take control of the aircraft, as required by the Air Niugini Standard Operating Procedures Manual.”
The report said the flight crew disregarded the “warning signs” about the aircraft’s “extremely high rate of descent” and proceeded to try to land the aircraft. It landed in the sea well short of the runway.
The investigation was greatly assisted by a video of the aircraft’s final approach to the airport taken by an aircraft engineer in the cockpit, according to Chief Commissioner Hubert Namani.
He said the investigation teams knew what had happened within the first few days of the accident after watching the video taken by aircraft maintenance engineer occupying the cockpit jump seat on his iPhone.
The report said the flight crew disregarded the alerts and warnings after passing the minimum decent altitude between 362 feet to the impact point.
The pilot lost visual contact of the runway in the final 30 seconds of the flight, and that was just after he went into the heavy rain.