Airplane accidents should not become normal

08Aug 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Airplane accidents should not become normal

A LIGHT plane carrying nine people on Tuesday crashed in Mafia Island, on the southern part the coastal tourism zone.

Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority Director General Hamza Johari said that the pilot and nine passengers all survived, with four people severely injured and rushed to the nearby hospital.

This was the good news, that no fatalities occurred in the crash, coming too soon after a worse incident in Tabora where the two people on board perished. The problem is that the two accident were too close one from the other, as if one were to project an arc from the two incidents, it begets a plane crash per week…

Early investigations indicated that the 5H-NOW plane operated by Tropical Air crashed due to loss of power to lift the plane when the pilot was trying to take off at Mafia airstrip.

This would imply that there was mechanical failure on the plane, unless there were particular wind or pressure circumstances which the technical personnel in the plane or on the ground could not tell. That is the work of specialists, but at times there are overall issues of guidelines which are literal public issues for all of us to think about, too.

The top regulator for air services said that the plane was heading to Dar es Salaam from the tourist island, where the pilot attempted several times to lift the plane, but when reached the end of the runway, the plane crashed and passengers sustained minor injuries, though four were seriously injured and rushed to Mafia District Hospital.

Without seeking to second guess investigations, was the pilot merely on hurry or why did he fail to notice that attempting to lift the plane several times is not normal? And did he start flying because he was at the end of the runway, or because the plane had earnestly taken off by then?

Definitely the public and the aviation community in particular expect that TCAA will provide detailed information once crash investigation is completed, as the director general promised.

But coming a few days after another light plane, owned by a South African firm, U-Dream Global, crashed close to Tabora town shortly after take-off, killing two passengers both citizens of that country, it came as a shock.

Airplane accidents are supposed to rarer than railway accidents, and the latter, rarer than motor vehicle accidents, and suddenly we have two airplane accidents in the space of three days; is that really normal?

What was on the brighter side of things was an impression that air travel is gradually becoming part of everyday life in a way, as both these accident meeting planes were not on special missions but regular charter planes for small group activities, as it were.

What isn’t clear from these reports as they were about accidents rather than airplane hiring in general, is that we don’t know how many such trips were being held say on the weekend of Tuesday when the other accident occurred.

But even if the number of plane trips around the country would have reached a hundred or more commercial value trips, where hiring is involved and not just a private excursion aboard a personal airplane, still two accidents was a hit high.

TCAA has work to do to ensure that airworthiness and take off feasibility or danger, is noticed early.