Botswana Defence Force (BDF) air crashes in the last 10 years were caused by pilots’ errors, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi told parliament this week.
The minister said investigations conducted after the crashes have shown that the crashes were mostly due to the pilots’ errors.
Kgathi made the revelations when answering a question from Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse who had asked the minister to state the “number of air crashes including aircrafts that crashed.” The minister revealed that for the past 10 years there were eight air crashes involving nine BDF aircrafts.
The minister said crashes and incidents were investigated with a view to determine the cause and appropriate interventions for preventing a repeat of similar incidents.
“Of the eight crashes, six were due to pilot error, whilst two are still under investigation,” said Kgathi.
He further explained that there were fatalities resulting from the crashes.
“Six members of the BDF lost their lives and six sustained injuries as a result of the air crashes,” Kgathi said.
He said all those who lose their lives in the course of duty or get injured while on duty were compensated according to the BDF regulations.
In mitigating against reoccurrence of similar incidents, Kgathi explained that regular preventative maintenance and inspections are carried out on all aircrafts in the BDF fleet, either on a calendar basis (number of days or months) or hourly basis (after a certain number of hours of operation) in line with the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and the BDF Air Staff Instructions (ASI) to ensure air worthiness at all times.
He said during these inspections, maintenance manuals are followed to the latter and nothing is done that is not stipulated in the OEM publications.
He further explained that the BDF also use its ASI, Engineering Orders, and the Standard Operating Procedures to address local conditions with a view to ensure and/or enforce high standards of flight safety in the BDF.
Other precautionary and preventative measures applied are regular on-the-job training and up-skilling through the BDF Flying Training School; the Pilot Conversion Programmes at all the flying squadrons; the Technical Training School and the Technician’s Aircraft Conversion; OEMs’ and Aviation Training Institutions abroad. BDF has desire to achieve world class military flying knowledge and capability as well as to produce and maintain world class military pilots capable of carrying out operations in any environment.
“The safety of both man and machine is of paramount importance and as a result, the BDF subscribes to the highest safety standards when it comes to the operation of its air assets,” said Kgathi.
Parliament was also told that families of the deceased are informed of what caused the air crashes.
Leader of Opposition Duma Boko sought to know if the investigations that showed that air crashes were due to pilot error are credible and who does them, whether it is an independent body that is not attached to BDF. Kgathi said “the process is credible.”