Second inquiry ordered on Cebu-based plane firm this year-A A +A
Thursday, August 23, 2012
CEBU CITY – All aircraft of Aviatour Fly’N Inc. are now grounded after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) suspended the company’s operations, following the crash involving its twin-engine Piper Seneca.
CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss III said he issued the suspension order last Tuesday, August 21.
But Captain Antonio Jureidini, Aviatour’s director of flight school, training and safety, told Sun.Star Cebu they already suspended their operations last Sunday yet.
That was a day after the crash of the plane hired by Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and flown by Aviatour chairman and chief executive officer Captain Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese national Kshitiz Chand.
Chand remained missing as of Wednesday night.
It is the second time this year that Aviatour’s operation was suspended. The first time was last March, when a Cessna it operated crashed in Camiguin.
The new suspension order from CAAP will affect Aviatour’s aircraft charter, aerial tours and air ambulance services, as well as the private and commercial pilot training courses.
Aviatour, which operates at least 30 light aircraft, is based in the General Aviation Area of the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA). It is also engaged in aircraft repairs, aviation technical trainings and other services.
In an interview aired over radio dyLA Wednesday afternoon, Hotchkiss said that Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Manuel Roxas II ordered an investigation on the plane crash. CAAP is an attached agency of DOTC.
In investigating a plane crash, CAAP considers several factors, including human skill, engine condition, weather, and the environment.
“We will eliminate it one by one before coming up with a conclusion. We will also check all the aircraft of the company,” Hotchkiss said.
The investigation, he added, will include Aviatour’s management.
Among the things they will look into is whether Aviatour followed the procedures and rules of CAAP, and whether it is still capable of operating without its chief executive officer.
“We know that Bahinting was the chief pilot and the owner of Aviatour. We will check if the company is still capable of operating aircraft charter and flying school without Bahinting,” Hotchkiss, a retired Philippine Air Force pilot, said.
Hotchkiss said that he started heading CAAP just two months ago, so he relies only on Aviatour’s records for now.
Last March, CAAP also issued a suspension order after Aviatour’s Cessna plane crashed near the Mambajao airport in Camiguin Island, killing Norwegian national Rachelle Sandre and the pilot Christian Cesar Cebrecos.
Sandre’s husband, their three-year-old son and the Indonesian co-pilot Nurmala Dewi were injured in the crash.
Hotchkiss said that by May, Aviatour was issued a temporary permit to operate, following complaints from the Embassy of Indonesia.
The embassy reportedly pointed out that with the suspension order, there were not enough airplanes for the 80 Indonesians who came to Cebu to train in Aviatour.
Hotchkiss said his predecessor issued a temporary permit to operate so the Indonesian students who have already started their trainings can complete their requirements.
The temporary permit is only valid until August 29, 2012, Hotchkiss said.
As far as CAAP is concerned, Hotchkiss said, they inspect every plane once a year. The inspection for pilots is done every six months.
“All the pilots of Aviatour passed the CAAP test,” Hotchkiss said.
In the same radio interview, Hotchkiss said that small planes like the Piper Seneca are not required to have a black box that records the communication between the pilot and the airport control tower, considering that the equipment is very expensive. They are only required to install a local transmitter and communication equipment.
Hotchkiss said that Captain Amado Soliman, the head of the aircraft accident, investigation and inquiry division of CAAP, is now in Masbate to inspect the wreckage of the Piper Seneca.
Another team may be sent to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport for its investigation on Aviatour’s operations.
CAAP formed a composite team to serve as the Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board, headed by Captain Soliman, with Captain Ramon Flores and Captain Elmer Pena.
It had sent the CAAP Go Team headed by Soliman, together with Captain Lorenzo Gumba and Engineer Reyner Bucalinao, to Masbate right after the plane crash, to gather information that could help explain the accident.
The wreckage was found on Tuesday morning, some 800 meters from the Masbate shoreline.
Earlier, Aviatour’s Human Resource Manager Michelle Ferol said that they have more than 70 employees.
Jureidini, Aviatour’s flying school director, said they have more than 30 aircraft, all of which were issued a certificate of airworthiness by CAAP. The certificate will expire next year yet. (EOB of Sun.Star Cebu/With Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 23, 2012.