Axed pi­lot crashed po­lice helicopter

CHOP­PER PI­LOT FAILED TO PASS TESTS AFTER FOUR MONTHS’ TRAIN­ING IN ITALY

The Star (Kenya) - - Front Page - BY STAR RE­PORTER @thes­tarkenya

Pi­lot, engi­neer say they can’t re­mem­ber who was fly­ing Sh683m chop­per that crashed in Mathare.

Pi­lot, engi­neer say they can’t re­mem­ber who was fly­ing Sh683m chop­per that crashed in Mathare

The lat­est crash of a po­lice helicopter was caused by an un­qual­i­fied pi­lot who failed to re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately when a marabou stork flew dan­ger­ously close, in­ves­ti­ga­tors say.

He pushed the wrong lever, mem­bers of the in­ves­ti­gat­ing team told the Star. As a re­sult, the air­craft lost power, stalled and cre­ated a vor­tex that pulled the Sh683 mil­lion chop­per down.

The crash 11 days ago of the newly ac­quired air­craft in Mathare was the fifth of a po­lice air­craft since 2009. It was the fifth crash of a any plane or helicopter be­tween Au­gust and Septem­ber this year.

The toll raises ques­tions about the qual­ity of re­cruit­ment and train­ing, among other is­sues.

Last Fri­day, in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­ter­viewed the four sur­vivors. In­ves­ti­ga­tors were drawn from the Kenya Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity; the Air Crash In­ves­ti­ga­tion Depart­ment of the Min­istry of Trans­port; and Agus­taWest­land of South Africa, sub­sidiary of the Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer Fin­mec­ca­nica.

The pi­lot said to have been fly­ing the AW139 helicopter, In­spec­tor Den­nis Oduk, al­legedly said his col­league In­spec­tor Martin Ndungu was in con­trol.

The two were among six trainees out of 10 who were con­sid­ered by the Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer not com­pe­tent to pi­lot the air­craft — only to be copi­lots. Four of the 10 were con­sid­ered qual­i­fied. They re­ceived train­ing in Italy.

In­spec­tor Ndungu, un­der­go­ing treat­ment at the Nairobi West Hos­pi­tal, and engi­neer Michael Kar­iuki, who was also on board, did not pro­vide in­for­ma­tion. They are un­der­stood to have said they could not re­mem­ber any­thing.

The fourth per­son aboard was iden­ti­fied as engi­neer Mandip Oshan, sec­onded to the Kenya Po­lice Ser­vice by the Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer.

Oshan is un­der­stood to have told in­ves­ti­ga­tors Oduk was at the con­trols and did not know how to re­spond when the stork flew near. It was at­tracted by the nearby dump­site, pos­ing the dan­ger of a bird hit.

Mem­bers of the in­ves­ti­gat­ing team, speak­ing to the Star in con­fi­dence, said the ac­count given by Mandip from his bed at Aga Khan hos­pi­tal tal­lies with in­for­ma­tion from the flight data recorder.

FIVE CRASHES IN TWO MONTHS

The five air­craft crashes be­tween Au­gust and Septem­ber:

On Au­gust 22, a Kenya Po­lice Bell Long Ranger crashed shortly after take-off from Wil­son Air­port. Two po­lice of­fi­cers in train­ing were in­jured.

On Septem­ber 8, a Cessna 210 crashed near an airstrip in Naivasha shortly after take-off. One per­son died, five were in­jured.

On Septem­ber 8, the Agusta AW139 helicopter crashed in Mathare, in­jur­ing four peo­ple.

On Septem­ber 12, an in­struc­tor and trainee pi­lot were in­jured when their light air­craft crashed in Kibiku area of Ngong.

On Septem­ber 15, a Cessna 174 crashed near Malindi on a train­ing flight. No one was in­jured.

The Kenya Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity is­sued a state­ment that all these crashes would be in­ves­ti­gated con­clu­sively.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors sent by Agusta pre­sented their re­port on Fri­day to Mar­tyne Lu­nani, Di­rec­tor and Chief In­ves­ti­ga­tor of air­craft ac­ci­dents.

A source privy to the con­tents of the re­port says the newly ac­quired chop­per — still un­der war­ranty — left Wil­son Air­port and headed for Mathare. It was put on au­topi­lot, and made to hover as the crew op­er­ated its cam­era, view­ing the res­i­den­tial area.

In­for­ma­tion from the voice recorder in­di­cates the big bird flew close as it hov­ered. That’s when events led to the crash. To avoid the bird, the pi­lot tried to man­u­ally make the chop­per rise us­ing the lever known as the col­lec­tive. How­ever, this was im­pos­si­ble in au­topi­lot mode where the air­craft can­not move up and down. It re­port­edly turned side­ways and stalled.

A vor­tex was cre­ated, suck­ing the chop­per in and down.

“Hov­er­ing out of ground ef­fect, or HOGE, is an avi­a­tion term de­scrib­ing when a chop­per ap­pears sta­tion­ary in the air. It gen­er­ally re­quires more power than if it is on the ground. It is the act of the pi­lot pulling the col­lec­tive that led the helicopter to lose power, mak­ing it fall to the ground,” the source said.

“In tech­ni­cal terms, the ro­tors should spin at 110 per­cent its nor­mal ro­ta­tions per minute. If it drops to 98 per­cent, alarms will go off, say­ing ‘ro­tor low, ro­tor low.’ When this helicopter crashed, it was down to 96 per­cent RPMs. You could clearly hear the warn­ings in the voice recorder and the pan­icked engi­neer di­rect­ing Oduk on what to do,” the source said.

Lu­nani is said to be wait­ing for Trans­port CS James Macharia to gazette a com­mis­sion of in­quiry, at the re­quest of In­te­rior CS Joseph Nkaissery. This be­fore act­ing on the find­ings of the in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Be­fore the helicopter was de­liv­ered in May, 10 pi­lots, in­clud­ing head of the Po­lice Air Wing Rogers Mbithi, were trained in Italy for four months from last Oc­to­ber to Jan­uary this

year. At the end, Agusta con­cluded only four had suc­cess­fully learned to op­er­ate the helicopter com­pe­tently.

They were iden­ti­fied as Mbithi him­self, a Mr Mwangi, a Mr Maina and a Mr Nder­itu. The rest, the ex­perts con­cluded, were only fit to be co-pi­lots.

Oduk and Ndungu, ap­par­ently pi- lot­ing the helicopter when it crashed, are among the six who failed to im­press the man­u­fac­turer’s train­ers.

Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta vis­ited the Agusta fac­tory in Septem­ber last year, and was given a half-hour ride aboard the same chop­per. The govern­ment wants to buy three more he­li­copters for the mil­i­tary and has se­lected sup­pli­ers, but has not signed award let­ters.

When the helicopter was de­liv­ered in May, two pi­lots and two engi­neers from the man­u­fac­turer were sec­onded to the Kenya Po­lice for six months.

How­ever, after only three months, the Ital­ian pi­lots left last month fol­low­ing a dis­agree­ment with the po­lice, the Star has learnt. One is­sue they raised was be­ing pres­sured to take Kenyan pi­lots on night flights, though they had not clocked the re­quired num­ber of day­light hours.

“They [sec­onded train­ers] were fol­low­ing the book but the Kenyans wanted short cuts,” our source said.

In March 2010, an Agusta helicopter be­long­ing to the Uganda po­lice crashed. It had run out of fuel.

TEN PI­LOTS WERE TRAINED IN ITALY FOR FOUR MONTHS BY THE MAN­U­FAC­TURER. ONLY FOUR WERE CON­SID­ERED QUAL­I­FIED PI­LOTS, THE OTH­ERS ONLY FIT TO BE CO-PI­LOTS. ‘IT IS THE ACT OF THE PI­LOT PULLING THE COL­LEC­TIVE [LEVER] THAT LED THE HELICOPTER TO LOSE POWER, MAK­ING IT FALL TO THE GROUND’

PHOTO /MONICAH MWANGI

The scene of the crash of a brand new Agusta West­land AW139 po­lice helicopter in Mathare North 4 A, within the Ruaraka NYS camp in Nairobi, Septem­ber 8, 2016.

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