An Air Vanuatu Twin Otter plane lost all controls on landing at Walaha airport on West Ambae last Saturday afternoon, when the aircraft’s elevator cable snapped on approach 20 to 30 seconds before touch down.
Fortunately all 19 passengers on board are safe and well and no further damage was caused to the plane.
An elevator cable is a critical component of a plane. It runs from the front to the tail of the aircraft and on a conventional fixed-wing aircraft flight control system consists of flight control surfaces, the respective cockpit controls, connecting linkages, and the necessary operating mechanisms to control an aircraft’s direction in flight.
The Acting Director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu (CAAV), Peter Omawa and Joseph Laloyer, CEO of Air Vanuatu both confirmed the occurrence of the incident on the aircraft, codenamed RV10.
They both confirmed that another plane was dispatched the same day to ferry onward passengers to their final destinations.
The aircraft is still at Walaha airport and CEO Laloyer says Air Vanuatu ordered a replacement cable from Australia the same day and it was due to arrive last night for a team to go to Walaha today to replace the damaged cable and fly the plane back to Port Vila for further investigation by their engineers to determine the cause of the problem.
He says the team will consist of staff from CAAV who will attend the scene and issue a special permit for the plane to the flown back to Port Vila.
Acting Director Omawa says CAAV’s team going to Walaha today will perform its own investigation into the incident and carry out further investigation on the plane after it gets to Port Vila to determine what caused the cable to snap.
Some believe the cause was a defective part, but this is unclear at this stage because the cable was only installed six months ago and Laloyer confirmed this was in March this year.
In 2013, an Air Vanuatu Britten-Norman Islander aircraft crash-landed at the same airfield, and both the regulator and the operator of the aircraft say this latest incident has nothing to do with the airfield.