Sunday, October 17, 2021

Ministry turns blind eye to IAS string of accidents

The Ministry of Transport and Communications has refused to ground International Aviation Solutions (IAS) aircrafts despite a number of accidents that occurred at the institution.

One of the accidents involving a Sling II aircraft last weekclaimed the life of a female trainee pilot in the Kweneng area

 The Ministry has turned a blind eye to strings of accidents at the school despite public concerns that the school’s aircraft fleet should have been grounded pending investigations.

This has stoked speculation that the Ministry is treating the institution with kids gloves because of its questionable relationship with the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

IAS Director Thatayaone Seduke was given tenders by DIS running into tens of millions of Pula under controversial circumstances.

Responding to Sunday Standard questions, Ministry of Transport and Communications Chief Public Relations Officer Oteng Mokowe was not committal on why they did not  ground the aircrafts.

“ In light of public concern and media speculation about aviation safety standards in the context of last week’s tragic incident, the Ministry wishes to further reassure the public that the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) has been and shall continue to ensure full compliance with ICAO standards and recommended practices,” said Mokowe.  He only confirmed that the Directorate of Accident Investigation is conducting an investigation of the incident.

“This exercise is being conducted in full conformity with its domestic mandate under the Civil Aviation Act No. 11 of 2011 and Botswana’s international obligations as a contracting state to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which in each case mandate procedures for the investigation and report back of any and all Serious Incidents and Accidents,” he said.

The Ministry did not address concerns that a number of accidents involving aircrafts from IAS had been reported but the Ministry never issued public statements as per the international requirements.

Instead, of addressing specific questions, the Ministry defended IAS and argued that it was complying with international standards.

“With specific reference to the status of the IAS Academy, without prejudice to the ongoing investigation, we can confirm the following: In 2015 the CAAB carried out a Re-Certification of the training school in compliance with ICAO audit requirements. In this context the school was inspected and approved by an ICAO Audit Team,” said Mokowe.

He said in 2016 the IAS Academy further applied for and was ultimately granted international accreditation as an ICAO approved TRAINAIR institution.

“This followed an intensive 3 month ICAO on site audit of the institution. In this respect the IAS Academy is one of only 14 aviation training organizations in Africa accredited to ICAO TRAINAIR, further being the only such flight training institution in the SADC region.  We can further confirm that since 2014 the IAS Academy has graduated 34 commercial and 37 private pilots,” he said.

Sunday Standard has turned up information that another aircraft, a sling II model was involved in an accident about two months ago, but the Ministry did not issue a public statement as per international requirements.

Preliminary investigations showed that the accident that happened two months ago was a result of a hard landing by one of the students that damaged the propeller and wheels.

According to Section 3.1 of ICAO Annex 13 and Section 75 (1) of the Civil Aviation Act No. 11 of 2011, the purpose of investigations is prevention of accidents and incidents.

In 2015, the Ministry confirmed that a student pilot from IAS on a solo flight was involved in a landing incident. “This was a PA-28 aircraft, registered A2-AJG. The site investigation revealed that the aircraft touched down and lifted off before coming to finally land and veer off to the left of Runway 26, resting some few meters outside the Runway,” the Ministry stated at the time.

During the course of investigation, “it was reported that earlier on the same aircraft was in close proximity with yet another one (Cessna C207 aircraft, registered A2-SKY) from the same school while both were still airborne.”

Seduke would not respond to Sunday Standard enquiries.

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