Probe on plane’s engine, other aircraft of Aviatour begins
CEBU CITY — A five-member special investigation committee of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) has started examining the right engine of the aircraft that crashed last August 18, killing Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.
The engine of the Piper Seneca, which was recovered from the bottom of the sea off Masbate last Tuesday, is under tight security at the Masbate airport.
In Cebu on Wednesday, two Caap investigators started inspecting the aircraft of Aviatour, the company that owned the Piper Seneca, and took samples of the fuel used by its planes.
Captain Jessup Bahinting, founder of Aviatour and the pilot of the Piper Seneca that was carrying Robredo, died in the crash. Bahinting’s co-pilot, Nepalese Kshitiz Chand, was also killed.
Caap Director General William Hotchkiss III on Wednesday said the plane’s right engine will be a key part in the investigation.
“This will determine if indeed it was a technical or mechanical problem that caused it to fail,” he added.
The Airframe/Structure Special Group of the five-man team will assist in the inspection of the right engine.
Hotchkiss said the investigation team will reconstruct the flight path of the plane, including communication between control towers and the pilot.
Caap has also taken statements of witnesses and will issue subpoena to others to shed light on the incident, he added.
Department of Transportation and Communications spokesperson Nic Conti said the investigation committee, which is composed of personalities from the aviation industry, will submit periodic reports in the course of the investigation.
“We remind Caap to be thorough in investigating the incident,” said Secretary of Transportation and Communications Mar Roxas. “We want to assure the aviation industry and the general public that it is still safe to travel in the country.”
Lorenzo Gumba, a retired Philippine Air Force general, and Ranier Baculinao, both of the Caap Aircraft Accident Investigation Board, obtained copies of the Piper Seneca’s August 18 flight plan. They also checked records of maintenance checks on Aviatour aircraft.
The investigators also took samples of fuel used by Aviatour, following allegations that the company used mobile gasoline on its aircraft.
Captain Antonio Jureidini, Aviatour director for flight school, training and safety, said they use 100/130-grade aviation fuel, certified by the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Jureidini is confident that Caap will find that Aviatour aircraft are properly maintained and airworthy.
He said he hopes that Caap would lift the suspension of Aviatour’s flight school and aircraft maintenance service, as these were not related to the crash.
“The accident only involved the air taxi (aircraft charter service),” he said.
Jureidini is also hopeful that the investigation will be completed in two months instead of one year as Roxas had ordered.
He said Aviatour’s foreign students might be forced to spend more due to the suspension because they will have to extend their stay in the country.
He said the students cannot transfer to other schools because Aviatour was the one who guaranteed for their stay before the Bureau of Immigration. (Sunnex)
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