Jamaican Civil Aviation Watchdog Says it has to ‘Trust’ the Operators

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A three-year-old air crash has come back to haunt the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA). It relates to a trainer aircraft, a Cessna, crashing immediately after take-off, killing 3. The aircraft was certified by JCAA, but new evidence suggests the operator who owned the aircraft had misled the Authority on the overhaul of the aircraft’s engine. JCAA defends itself saying it is only a regulatory body and when an operator submits documents, it has to trust those documents. While an inspection of the aircraft is definitely undertaken before certifying it as air-worthy, minute details like the exact condition of the engine and other parts cannot be ascertained. JCAA has to go by the documentation submitted by the operators.

Big Question Over the Condition of the Engine

JCAA, represented by its Director General Nari Williams-Singh, has reacted to the complaints of failure by the authority to check the Cessna properly before allowing it to fly that fateful day in November 2016. Some reports suggest the engine of the aircraft was faulty. At the centre of the controversy is an investigation report by an independent team that suggests the engine of the ill-fated aircraft, claimed to have been overhauled, was not serviced at all. JCAA was questioned if it had sanctioned the aircraft as air-worthy, despite this information.

Scope of Physical Inspection Limited

It was to this question that the DG, JCAA was answering when he explained that the physical inspection of the aircraft is undertaken before certification. However, it is not feasible to open the engine and ascertain its precise condition. The Authority relies on the documents related to the engine and the aircraft submitted by the operators. They work on the basis of trust. Loss of an aircraft is critical to the operator too and they would not deliberately fly a machine that is not fit for flying.

Contradictions Still Exist

Whatever the justification by the JCAA, at least on one count there is a difference of opinion between the version given by the investigators and the Cessna’s operator. This relates to the ring gear in the engine and its timing alignment. The investigation report says it found this component faulty during its study of the causes for the accident. The operator, however, claims that the ring gear was never taken away from the crash site and sent to the US for investigation as claimed by the investigators. They have questioned the report on the overhauling schedule as well, claiming there were still 17 hours of flying time left at the time of the accident, before the overhauling was due.

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