By STEPHANIE ELIZAH
AN interim report into the crash in August in Milne Bay, which killed three Australians and a New Zealander, suggests that the condition of the airstrip may have caused the crash.
Minister for Civil Aviation Benjamin Poponawa had received the preliminary report on the investigation into the Trans Air Cessna jet crash on Aug 31, which killed the four on Misima Island, Milne Bay.
The report, prepared by investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) PNG and the Accident Investigation Commission (ACI), depicted preliminary analysis of the history of the flight, Bwagaioa aerodrome runway information, site and wreckage information and examination on the main landing gear of the Cessna.
Poponawa cautioned that the preliminary report was derived from the initial investigation into the crash.
He said further evidence might alter the circumstances as depicted in the report.
He said investigations were continuing and would include further examination and analysis of various aspects of the crash including the pilot’s background and experience.
Analysis of recordings from the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recordings had been sent to the United States national transportation safety board (NTSB) for recovery.
The preliminary report revealed that the aircraft had travelled 30m beyond the end of the runway before it came into contact with trees and the terrain. A loud explosion was heard and fireball and smoke was observed at the end of the runway.
Crash survivor co-pilot Kelby Cheyne, who was interviewed after his recovery in Brisbane, Australia, recalled that he had exited the aircraft unassisted through a hole in the captain’s window. Shortly after that, a fuel-fed post impact fire destroyed the remaining aircraft wreckage.
Local island inhabitants, who arrived at the scene five to 10 minutes after the accident, assisted with getting the co-pilot to the local hospital.
Findings on the condition of the Bwagaioa airstrip revealed that the runway surface consisted of crushed coral on clay which had been partly overgrown with grass and moss. The only navigation aid on the island was a non-directional beacon (NDB) that was inoperative at the time of the accident.
Investigators reported that the aircraft brakes sustained heat damage from the post-accident fire but appeared to be in relatively good condition and the brake rotors turned freely by hand with no apparent defects.
The final report is expected early next year.