Air Vanuatu responds to PNG Accident Investigation Report

ATR 72-600 aircraft operated by Air Vanuatu Photo: Air Vanuatu

Air Vanuatu has acknowledged the release of the final report into the landing accident at Port Vila Bauerfield International Airport involving an ATR 72-500 aircraft operating Flight 241 on July 28, 2018 by the Papua New Guinea Accident Investigation Commission (AIC).

Air Vanuatu Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Derick Nice says they take the report’s findings very seriously.

The AIC has issued two Safety Recommendations to the airline related to the training of pilots and cabin crew. Mr Nice says these recommendations have already been implemented and the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu advised accordingly.

The airline was given an opportunity to provide feedback to the AIC before the report’s release, with some of this feedback reflected in the final report. Other feedback was not.

The AIC found that the events leading to the accident began when an engine malfunctioned in flight about 60 nautical miles from Port Vila. However, the AIC found that while the engine malfunction contributed to a number of factors that affected the outcome, it did not by itself cause the accident.

Mr Nice says the Air Vanuatu dispute these findings. The engine malfunction directly led to smoke entering the cabin, which triggered the chain of events that resulted in the accident. Mr Nice believes that the failure of the engine was causal to the accident, if not the root cause.

The AIC report also states that the failure by the pilots to apply the emergency brakes contributed to the outcome, however the company’s internal investigation and photographic evidence of tire marks on the runway indicate that in fact the pilots did apply the emergency brakes.

The AIC has issued three Safety Recommendations to the aircraft’s manufacturer calling for changes to pilot checklists.

Air Vanuatu agrees with these recommendations but also notes that its internal investigation highlights that the design of the ATR 72-500’s warning system was also a significant contributing factor. The airline no longer operates this type of aircraft.

CEO Nice says the AIC report does acknowledge the challenges faced by the pilots on this flight as they dealt with an engine malfunction, smoke in the cabin and ambiguous warnings and checklists. He also commends the pilots for their responsiveness in a very difficult situation and Air Vanuatu management are grateful that they were successful in landing this aircraft without injury or loss of life.

CEO Nice told 96.3 Buzz FM that Air Vanuatu has been operating for over a year without their third ATR 72, however the airline will not be getting a replacement ATR 72.

He says once the first of the four Airbus A220 aircrafts arrive in June, it will replace the ATR 72s on the international routes they fly. This would allow the ATR 72s to concentrate more on the domestic sector which in turn would increase the number of daily flights flown by the ATR 72s.

The CEO says although a final decision has not been made, it is likely that once all the A220 Airbuses are in service, the ATR 72s may be exclusively used for the domestic sector.

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