Monday, March 26, 2012

Namibia: Court Postpones Helicopter Hearing

Windhoek — The matter in which Rainier Arangies, the owner of the helicopter grounded last month by the Ministry of Works and Transport and by the Directorate of Civil Aviation, was last week postponed to 19 April by the High Court in Windhoek.

The postponement follows an agreement by lawyers representing Arangies and the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Directorate of Civil Aviation.

The matter was heard briefly earlier this month and it was agreed that it would continue on 22 March. Early this month, it was agreed that the grounded helicopter could be flown for recreational purposes only and not for commercial flights.

In the meantime, it was agreed that the helicopter could be flown, not only for recreational purposes, but also for any other purpose.

It was further agreed that the agreements made early this month will remain in force until 19 April and the agreements will not have any prejudice on any of the parties.

Earlier this month it was agreed that a mark that had the words 'United States Army' on the side of the helicopter's fuselage must be covered up, as well as a number and horse's head logo on the aircraft's tail, plus a yellow circle which was painted on the helicopter's cabin door. It was agreed that they should be temporarily covered before the grounding will be lifted.

The Bell Textron Helicopter with US army markings had ruff­led authorities and President Hifikepunye Pohamba was allegedly disturbed when he saw a helicopter with US Army markings on Namibian soil early last month.

Arangies informed New Era last month that the US Army markings were removed on 6 February when he received a call about the president being disturbed about seeing a helicopter with US Army markings.

He said he removed the markings out of respect for the President.

The helicopter owner added that what remains on the helicopter is a cavalry shield at the back of the helicopter, on the helicopter's tail, as well as a cavalry cross, "which are not associated with an army, hence there cannot be any misunderstandings and it does not pose any threat," he added.

The helicopter owner said the US Cavalry became defunct 25 years ago.

He said furthermore that after he agreed to remove the US markings, the ministry grounded his helicopter without justification.

Arangies stated that the only reason that a helicopter could be grounded is when it is not registered or when not air-worthy. He said his helicopter was registered and is air-worthy.

The helicopter was used in the Vietnam War 40 years ago, he said.

The helicopter fiasco also resulted in Erkki Nghimtina, the Minister of Works and Transport, suspending the Director of Civil Aviation, Bethuel Mujetenga.

A committee has been set up to establish whether there was negligence involved in Director of Civil Aviation Bethuel Mujetenga's handling of the helicopter debacle.

The investigations in the matter were expected to be completed last week Friday.


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