(eTN) – The crash outside Kilimanjaro International Airport last Thursday night, in which the pilot was seriously injured and one apparent trainee pilot killed, has been attributed by aviation sources to “inept air traffic control mechanisms,” after the Seneca 3 apparently ran out of fuel.
A regular aviation source in Dar es Salaam, when discussing the accident with this correspondent, had this to say: “While it may be a bit premature to speculate over the precise cause of the accident, the fact that the pilot survived the crash will help investigators to narrow this down and find out exactly what happened, if she makes it through. From my own experience as a pilot, however, I am tempted to jump that process a little.
“We know that the plane was due to fly to the Arusha municipal airfield from Dar es Salaam. It seems that the pilot, when approaching the Arusha field, realized that there were no lights and decided to head back towards Kilimanjaro International. From all we have learned, when requesting landing permission, she was told to hold to allow for other traffic to clear first.
“Now if she was running short of fuel, maybe she told that to ATC and the tapes will ascertain to that when the investigation looks into this aspect. In fact, if she realized that fuel was running critically short she would have even declared an emergency, at which point ATC would have had to clear all other traffic out of the way immediately to give this flight top priority.
“But the one thing most puzzling, if this flight was cleared from Dar to land at the Arusha field, the operations staff there should have known and should have advised of any time limits to land or else to announce to them in case lights were not working. That information should have been relayed by ATC to the pilot, should have been mentioned when the flight plan was filed, before takeoff permission for Arusha was given. The next chance to relate this information was in the air, because for sure they were in radio contact when the aircraft was in the vicinity of JRO [three letter designator for Kilimanjaro International Airport] and making the approach to the Arusha municipal field.
“Now if that information was not passed to the pilot in command, it would have been a serious omission and could have contributed to the plane running short of fuel. The final report will have to reflect all these issues.”
The newly-imported plane, owned by an Arusha-based tour company, was on a “ferry flight” from Dar es Salaam and due to enter service in the coming days for air charters to bring tourists to the national parks.
The deceased trainee pilot had only recently returned from the United States where he reportedly had done his training for a CPL, short for Commercial Pilot’s License, before returning to Tanzania.
The Kenyan lady pilot in command has since received first aid and initial treatment in a local hospital and has been flown to Nairobi for further treatment. She was still unconscious when being taken there, and her present status could not be ascertained at the time of going to press.