BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
FAMILIES of the 13 people killed in the Kokoda plane tragedy on Aug 11 will have to wait at least six months to know what caused the Airlines PNG Twin Otter to crash.
The aircraft slammed into the eastern slopes of the Kokoda Gap some 11km southeast of its destination, the Kokoda airstrip, killing all 11 passengers and its two crew.
“It is still too early to make determinations … I would envisage given the track record, at least six months before probable causes are identified,” senior air crash investigator Syd O’Toole said last Friday.
“It appeared to be a normal flight in all aspects and the crew were experienced and any speculation at this stage will need to be cooled until proper analysis is done,” Mr O’Toole added.
He said the investigation was “a historical moment in aircraft accident investigations and will set the precedent for future investigations”.
The investigation, to be done systematically, comprises two parts and is conducted by the Accident Investigation Commission (AIC) with assistance from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
The first part involves search and rescue, and retrieval of people and aeroplane parts involved in the accident.
The aircraft accident investigation interim report disclosed last Friday is the first part of the investigation and was derived from these initial investigations.
The second part of the exercise will include detailed research and investigation by the AIC, the ATSB and the engine manufacturer to determine the probable cause.
The interim report contained the history of the flight, injuries to persons on board, damage to aircraft and other damage, Mr O’Toole said.
The crew’s personal data, aircraft information and meteorological information was included.
At the time of compilation, there was no medical or pathological information and as such it was not put in the report.
The report also had information on communications, aerodrome information and information on the wreckage and impact.
It reported that at the time of impact, there was no fire and that the aircraft’s engines, propellers and a number of other parts were destroyed only on impact.
All these parts have been recovered and will undergo further tests in Australia to hopefully identify the probable cause.
The report said further tests had to be done on “items recovered from the accident site”.
Both engines are being prepared for shipment by air to Montreal, Canada, for factory tests.
There also needs to be a review of the relevant operational documentation, including a review of the aircraft’s weight and balance, the weather forecast and actual weather conditions at the time of the crash.
As part of the ongoing investigations, relevant persons and organisations will need to be interviewed.
A review of the relevant risk controls and potential organisational influences that may have contributed to the crash will also be undertaken.
Civil Aviation Minister Charles Abel, who endorsed the release of the AIC interim report last Friday, said the report was only “a statement of the factual information leading up to the incident”.
“The interim report, by its nature, is not speculative as to the cause or the contributing causal factors that culminated in the accident occurring,” Mr Abel said.
“All available resources from the AIC and the ATSB through the Transport Department are being deployed in an effort to have the final report completed as soon as possible.”