‘Mistake’ Caused Plane Crash

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By Desie Heita

Windhoek

A possible adjustment mistake during takeoff by the pilot is one of the contributing factors that led to the fatal crash of 22 October, 2007, when the Beechcraft Bonanza 36 crashed near the Trade Centre complex less than 20 minutes after takeoff from Eros Airport.

An accident report by the Director of Aircraft Accident Investigations, Ericksson Nengola, found the probable cause of the accident to be the pilot’s likely attempt at a left turn to make an emergency landing at one of the airport runways after the engine lost power. “Unfortunately the aircraft stalled and crashed,” Nengola said in the report.

A 60-year-old Italian tourist on a hunting expedition to Namibia, Alessandro Paci, and pilot Giacomo Savoldelli (39) perished in the accident. Paci died on impact, while Savoldelli succumbed minutes after the crash.

The report attributes the accident to fuel starvation during takeoff as the contributing factor that led to poor engine performance.

“During lift-off the engine suffered poor performance from fuel starvation due to incorrect fuel air ratio mixture setting,” said the report.

Shortly after the engine lost power the aircraft dropped a wing because of the sudden loss of engine torque and slipstream effect.

The report also says there was a strong possibility that during takeoff “the engine revolutions per minute might have risen above the required [levels] and the pilot mistakenly adjusted the mixture control lever to lean mixture instead of the pitch control lever”.

Savoldelli was taking Paci to his lodge, the Okarumuti Game Lodge, east of Midgard, 70 km outside Windhoek.

Immediately after takeoff, the pilot sent a distress call to the air traffic controller who, immediately thereafter, saw the plane diving vertically with the left wing being lower than the right wing before the plane hit the ground.

Although the report said the accident was not survivable, the quick response of one of the two eyewitnesses was the reason why the plane did not burst into flames after hitting the ground.

The eyewitness, who heard the distress call twice on his hand-held radio, rushed to the scene where he cut the battery cable and disconnected it from the electrical system to prevent a fire hazard. When the eyewitness arrived at the scene, he found the passenger dead but the pilot seemed to be alive, said the report.

The investigation has found that the pilot “was not a regular flyer of this type of aircraft” although he converted to the Beechcraft A36 in late 2000, and raked up 183 hours of flying time since then.

This is the first aircraft accident report to be released since the series of four fatal and near-fatal accidents since October 2007.

The last air crash accident was last month in Swakopmund when the engine of a Cessna 210 reportedly experienced problems.

In all four accidents, six tourists – five Israelis and one Italian – and two pilots perished, while nine tourists – five Germans, two French, and two American nationals – and the respective pilots survived in two separate near-fatal crashes.

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