Aviatour rejects pilot error claim

By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Nov 13 2012 05:10 PM | Updated as of Nov 14 2012 10:08 PM


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Aviatour Air rejected the finding of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) that pilot error was the cause of the plane crash that led to the death of former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and 2 others last August 18.

The firm said Captain Jessup Bahinting, who manned the ill-fated Piper Seneca, was a licensed pilot who had flown the aircraft many times.

Pilot error, insufficient experience, connivance and a slew of factors affected the air worthiness of the plane carrying Robredo on that fateful day. The plane crash also killed Nepalese pilot trainee Kshitiz Chand.

Capt. Amado Soliman, the chief of the CAAP aircraft accident investigation and inquiry board, said Bahinting did not have experience handling a situation where one engine dies mid-air.

He noted that Bahinting dropped the flaps of the airplane, which later dragged the movement of the airplane towards its intended landing.

The 60-year-old pilot already noticed that 23 minutes into the flight, there was already something wrong with the Piper Seneca. Suliman said the pilot retained the same route for about 37 minutes instead of going back to Mactan from where it took off.

In a separate interview with ANC, Captain Antonio Jureidini, Aviatour director of flight school, training and safety, said “I would not accept [the allegation] that Capt. Bahinting is not competent. The pilot should be as good as the plane he’s flying.”

He said there are just incidents beyond the control of anyone.

In that particular incident, “perhaps [Bahinting’s] piloting technique was not appropriat to Naga.

Jureidini said Bahinting probably decided to proceed to Masbate for the emergency “because it’s nearer than Cebu.” It was in Masbate waters where the plane crashed.

He said all pilots receive training on multiple engines. “[As to a single engine], nasa ability na yan ng piloto.”

He also denied allegations of conflict of interest. The report alleged the mechanics do the repairs, even if they don’t have the proper authorization.

He stressed their mechanics are limited to doing preventive maintenance such as change oil and spark plugs and clean air filters. “Any licensed mechanic can do this.”

Jureidini, meanwhile, did not comment on the alleged connivance between the company and CAAP auditors. The report also revealed there was improper issuance of an airworthiness certificate for the aircraft. Test flight records and flight plans were not filed, the report alleged.

The officials of the firm said they want a copy of the investigation so they can answer every detail of the findings.

At present, Aviatour is under re-inspection of CAAP for the issuance of a certification for their flight school. It is currently being overseen by the wife of Bahinting.

The firm is also appealing for the lifting of the suspension against the flight school. – with reports from Reno Tallada, ABS-CBN News Cebu