Saturday, January 02, 2016

Investigative report indicates attempt to cover-up Turkish airlines crash-landing

Kathmandu, January 2

Ten months after a Turkish Airlines flight crash-landed at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on March 4, there is little to suggest that the state of air safety in Nepal has improved.

Though the probe committee patted itself on the back while presenting the final report to the minister in November, the report reveals instances of cover-up and investigative sloppiness.

Annex 13 of International Civil Aviation Organization on aircraft accident investigation provides the necessary basis for investigation and seeks a listing of immediate and deeper systemic causes without apportioning blame. Annex standards require publishing the state of effectiveness of communication and navigation systems, state of facilities at the aerodrome, and also description of evacuation and rescue efforts, which, strangely, are missing. The document, thus, lacks worth in terms of safety enhancement, as can be seen from the contents of various aviation community portals.

Lack of mention of Required Navigation Performance-Authorization Required (RNP-AR) approach procedure perhaps was intended to hide the fact that the procedure was adopted as a ‘free gift’ in a slapdash manner without proper understanding of the accompanying obligations, as QuoVadis an Airbus sub-company, continues to secure its copyright, a senior Captain working with Nepal Airlines Corporation commented.

Besides, the manner in which Turkish Airlines was given the necessary operational approval also deserved special mention. This daily had earlier reported that the process itself, for issuing operational approval to Turkish Airlines, was a mockery, whereby air traffic controllers and irrelevant CAAN union members were sent to Turkey for a jaunt in the guise of a Turkish Airlines inspection visit prior to the issuance, instead of experienced jet pilots.

“Clearly, CAAN oversight of foreign operators such as Turkish Airlines, as required by ICAO Standard, leaves much to be desired,” the NAC Captain said.

Besides, the report is annoyingly silent on the approved method employed by air traffic controllers for reporting the prevailing visibility in the range needed for attempting this satellite-based approach procedure (900m) and as to why the Runway Visual Range and ceilometer equipment had been recently installed at the approach end of runway 02 in the first place, if the air traffic controllers alone sufficed.

“Conveying of the above-minima weather observation tempted the crew to attempt the second approach instead of continuing to hold or deciding to divert the aircraft to an alternate airport.”

Also, the report does not comment whether the available Precision Approach Path Indicator lights serving the traditional ground-based navigational aid — VOR approach — also provided concomitant visual approach guidance slope for aircraft making the RNP-AR approach as the two allow for varying flight path angles, the Captain added.

Interestingly, the state of safety management system at the lone ‘certified’ aerodrome in Nepal was also merrily glossed over in the probe report, along with the subsequent obfuscation of hazards that were intentionally introduced in the process of publication of the displaced threshold in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) Nepal supplement without accurate field survey, allowing the error to propagate to the Turkish jet cockpit, according to an aviation expert.

The decision to keep details of the Cockpit Voice Recorder classified, contrary to ICAO stipulations, also indicates probable confidence deficit among investigators’ line of reasoning while buttressing the belief that the inquiry was essentially a cover-up effort, another expert opined.

A version of this article appears in print on January 03, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.


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