Director: “Comprehensive review and assessment” underway, with “absolute priority” on safety matters
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — More than 50 aviation safety recommendations made by the Air Accident Investigation Authority (AAIA) to the Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) of The Bahamas and Ministry of Tourism and Aviation dating back to 2017 remain open and unresolved, according to an analysis of those recommendations.
The recommendations stem from 10 aviation incidents dating back over the last three years, and addresses specific safety deficiencies, and corrective measures.
In many instances, the recommendations have not been responded to in accordance with the law.
According to the Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority Act, the regulatory authority and any entity that a recommendation is addressed must formally respond to the recommendations and “explain how they have addressed or will address the safety deficiencies”.
The accident authority investigates all aviation incidents in the jurisdiction and is responsible for advancing transportation safety in the sector.
For example, an aircraft crashed shortly after departure from Rock Sound International Airport in Eleuthera in June 2018, killing the pilot and two passengers.
There was no crash and rescue vehicle available at the airport to respond, and help was sought and received from the local town volunteer fire truck, investigators found.
As the aircraft crashed off-field in a heavily wooded area with no easily accessible road, first responders and rescue personnel had challenges in locating the wreckage at first.
When the teams found the site of the crash, the aircraft had been burning for some time.
The AAIA recommended the CAA conduct initial and follow-up inspections of all other airports under the surveillance obligation in a structured and timely manner to ensure their compliance with requirements.
It also recommended that adequate firefighting equipment is available and functioning; adequate personnel is qualified and available to perform rescue obligations; records are available to demonstrate proper qualifications, and the proper runway and taxiway markings are installed at airports in the authority’s purview.
The recommendations made on February 6, 2018, were addressed to then CAA Director General Captain Charles Beneby.
However, there was no documented response to the recommendations.
Calls placed to Beneby were not returned, though he asked to be contacted via text.
However, Beneby did not respond to the message sent concerning the matter.
When contacted, CAA Director General Michael Allen said safety is central to the authority’s priorities.
Allen assumed the role three weeks ago.
“We are currently undergoing a fairly comprehensive review and assessment as to our structures, policy procedures and also, the [processes] for ensuring we cohesively interact with all the other agencies and components to the industry,” Allen said.
“Part of this process is going to be to ensure that we give absolute priority to these matters that concern safety…”
Allen was asked whether the open and unresolved recommendations affect The Bahamas’ standing with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
He said: “It is a preoccupation of the authority at the moment to prepare ourselves for an audit, which we anticipate will be in November 2021, and we are continuing to engage ICAO to ensure that we position ourselves to do very well on this audit.
“It may be helpful for the public to know that we are concluding an exercise which is effectively going to enhance and sort of modernize our legislation so that we think we’re going to have an enhanced, improved statutory regulatory framework that will take the industry forward.”
One recommendation made to the Ministry of Tourism concerning the June 2018 crash, received an “acceptable response”, though the recommendation remained open.
The AAIA recommended to the government to explore ways to find funding to ensure that suitable crash and rescue, firefighting equipment, representative of the size of aircraft airports accommodate, be made available.
The recommendations were made on February 9, 2019.
In June 2020, the ministry responded and confirmed the recommendations were advanced to procure 11 new fire trucks.
“We anticipate that this exercise will be completed within the next 18 calendar months and in the interim, will ask the airport authority to confirm directly to you that adequate firefighting equipment (based on largest scheduled aircraft that fly into this airport) are now available,” Department of Aviation Director Algernon Cargill wrote in response on June 3.
Following a near mid-air collision on September 22, 2018, the AAIA recommended to the Civil Aviation Authority that it reexamine the pilot for his competence to hold a Bahamas-issued pilot license.
The recommendation was made in June 2019 to Beneby.
Again, there was no documented response.
A private operator of a Piper Aztec, despite acknowledging instructions to depart from runway 27, taxied onto and departed runway 32, contrary to the instructions of Air Traffic Control.
“Neither aircraft was aware of their close proximity or conflict possibility until advised by ATC (Air Traffic Control),” the investigation report read.
The AAIA recommended to Air Traffic Operations that a refresher class be conducted frequently, noting that based on a review of air traffic controller training records, it appeared as though the last refresher course was provided to the controller under investigation in 2007, more than 11 years.
There was no documented response.