Friday, December 1, 2023

GPS will unravel mystery of Sasa Klaas chopper accident

Technology of United States origin may unravel the mystery surrounding a helicopter crash in which hip-hop singer Sasa Klaas perished.

The accident happened on March 5 this year and circumstances leading to it have been shrouded in mystery since. There have been conflicting accounts of when the chopper left Matsieng Airstrip (where it was hangared), when it arrived at its destination (Sandveld Farms), how many people were aboard, when the chopper crashed and who was piloting it when that happened.

One account is that the chopper had airlifted some people to the pilot’s farm for a weekend merrymaking session that reached a fateful highpoint when four people went on an ill-advised joyride. This account has Sasa Klaas (real name Sarona Motlhagodi), a complete novice, temporarily taking over the controls and puts an unnamed ruling-party big wig and companion female aboard the chopper. The Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana complicated matters by putting out a press statement that confirmed that indeed four people were aboard. It later retracted the statement.

Another account is that the Robinson R44 took off from Matsieng at 1800 hours for what was supposed to be an hour-long flight and that flying low and impaired visibility may have caused the accident.

From what Sunday Standard learns, the investigation is at a point where global positioning system (GPS) data is being used to answer questions that remain unanswered.  A multi-use, space-based radio navigation system, GPS uses a set of satellites that emit signals, which in turn enable receivers to determine the exact position over the earth, altitude and time. The satellites carry atomic clocks that provide extremely accurate time. It has been reported that Sasa Klaas’ phone records were mysteriously and seemingly surreptitiously deleted by unnamed parties. Such shenanigans would be impossible with GPS data, whose ultimate custodian is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an agency of the US government. GPS currently provides two levels of service: Standard Positioning Service (SPS) and Precise Positioning Service (PPS). Access to the PPS is restricted to US Armed Forces, US federal agencies, and selected allied armed forces and governments while the SPS is available to all users on a continuous, worldwide basis.

There may be an anticlimax in this matter because even if the pilot is found culpable, he may not even be prosecuted. In terms of Annex 13 of the Standards and Recommended Practices for Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation that were developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), “it is not the purpose of an investigation to apportion blame or liability.”  ICAO is a UN body and its member states (like Botswana) are, in principle, obliged to enact its standards through their own regulatory and legal systems.


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