'Blame plane crashes on humans'

LATEST VICTIM: Chris Hewitt. Pic.  22/05/2008. © Gallo Images
LATEST VICTIM: Chris Hewitt. Pic. 22/05/2008. © Gallo Images

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

The recent spate of light aircraft crashes has been blamed on inexperienced pilots by the Civil Aviation Authority.

A total of 103 accidents and 34 fatalities have been recorded from April to October 2008, compared to 102 accidents and 15 fatalities during the same period last year. Since the beginning of October, 13 accidents, of which seven resulted in 25 fatalities, have occurred.

"The accidents are of great concern to the authority," said Commissioner for the Civil Aviation Captain Colin Jordaan.

"The leading cause of these accidents, as proven by the outcomes of completed accident investigations, has consistently pointed to human factors as a leading cause of fatal accidents.

"Human factors include incidents where aviation personnel ignore obvious things like weather conditions, complying with the required weight allowed by aircraft manufacturers and flying without enough fuel, etc."

Jordaan said various interventions were being put in place, and if implemented diligently, could yield positive results. He said a General Aviation Strategic Initiative committee had been set up. It comprises members of the CAA and specialists in the industry.

"Senior members of the airline industry have offered to make their expertise available. The committee will come up with practical solutions. Amongst these will be DVDs," Jordaan said.

In the latest incident, former SA Rugby Union's communication manager Chris Hewitt, 24, who was training to be a pilot, died in a plane crash on Wednesday in Hekpoort, near Krugersdorp on the West Rand.