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Instructor and student pilot were not at fault: Sayed-Khaiyum

May 24, 2019 4:53 pm
Civil Aviation Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during a press conference regarding the Cessna 172-R aircraft

Civil Aviation Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum confirms that Instructor Iliesa Tawalo and student pilot Merelesita Lutu were not at fault.

This was  after the Cessna 172-R aircraft they were in, crashed at the Delaikoro Mountain in Labasa in February last year.

During a press conference today, Sayed-Khaiyum says that they have received a report on the investigation from private investigator Andrew McGregor from New Zealand.

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Sayed-Khaiyum says according to the report, at the time when the aircraft departed from Labasa Airport, it complied with the visual flight rules, in accordance with Fiji’s Air Navigation Regulations in the cross-country training flight plan.

“However, as soon after departing Labasa, weather conditions and visibility across the mountain quickly deteriorated, thereby trapping the aircraft without an escape route and causing it to impact steep mountainous terrain.”

Sayed-Khaiyum says the flying instructor had a total of 1, 257 hours of flying experience at the time of the accident.

He says the report has some recommendations that the Civil Aviation Department will need to look at.

“Including the requirement for general aviation for pilots to undergo mountain flying training and the development of a new training module on Fiji’s climatology. Let us focus on Fiji’s unique weather patterns including the risks and unpredictable nature of tropical low-pressure trough weather systems, facilitate weather improvements in weather briefing service for pilots.”

The Aviation Minister adds that his department will work closely on the implementation of the recommendations in the report to ensure that Fijian pilots are prepared for risks involved in mountain flying and predictable weather changes.

“The Solicitor General will be meeting with all the stakeholders in the next one month to ensure that the recommendations of the report get implemented and how we can get them implemented and obviously there are some on a broader scale and some are more specific.”

Tawalo and Lutu’s bodies were found four days after the crash.

Sayed-Khaiyum says it cost them $200, 000 to get the investigation done and attain the report.

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