By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
NASSAU, Bahamas — The Bahamas Air Accident Investigation Department (BAAID) has released its report on the fatal air crash in Andros that killed six people including the pilot back in January, 2017.
In the report’s conclusion, BAAID stated: “The pilot’s limited qualification, experience and proficiency in operating in weather conditions determined to be less than visual meteorological conditions (marginal visual conditions) due to reduced visibility and rain, have been determined to be a contributing factor in this accident.”
The pilot, Darren Clarke, and his competency was covered extensively by Caribbean News Now, with confirmation of witnesses who knew the pilot and understood he was ill-equipped to handle the Piper Aztec Twin Engine plane involved in the fatal crash, as he was previously only used to flying single engine aircraft on clear days and not in the weather conditions that added to a lack of visibility on the day of the crash.
BAAID made note of this in its report and stated: “Based on evidence gathered in the course of the investigation, including other pilots’ (who flew with this pilot), accounts, they stated that he was not comfortable flying in weather conditions that were not visual (VFR).”
The report also went on to say that: “The pilot was certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States of America as a private pilot licence holder, with instrument and multi-engine privileges attached to that certificate,” and was not trained to fly commercial aircraft.
“As he (Clarke) did not demonstrate instrument proficiency in a multi-engine aircraft, his private pilot certificate bore the limitations “Multi Engine – VFR only”, which meant his instrument rating was limited to single engine airplanes only.”
“He was not authorized to operate any multi-engine aircraft in weather conditions that required use of instruments for navigation.”
The plane involved in the crash, a Piper Aztec II plane, tail number N-62769, was certificated, equipped and maintained in accordance with FAA requirements and regulations.
The report also laid out several key recommendations for the BCAA to ensure issues like this do not happen again, most importantly with regard to increasing supervision of the aviation sector in general; ensuring that all pilots flying in Bahamian airspace have the requisite licences to fly in The Bahamas; and a composite audit done on all licence holders, both converted and validated licences, to ensure every pilot flying in Bahamian airspace is competent and qualified to do so.
CEO of Sky Bahamas Ltd, Captain Randy Butler, in speaking with Caribbean News Now, when asked if he agreed with the report’s findings, said: “Not really. We are six months past this accident and what has been done to prevent these kinds of things from happening again?”
“When I read the final accident report on N-62769, all of seven safety recommendations point at the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) and the need for them to do their job functions.
“These safety recommendations were made based on the investigation’s conclusions and findings which point to the BCAA, however look at the responses to the safety recommendations,” he continued.
Pointing to the overall tenor of the safety recommendations in the report, Butler went to state, “Everything starts off with ‘The BCAA has satisfactorily addressed this recommendation and have proposed a plan of action to…’ everything still a plan but yet the accident investigator is happy with their plan but, you read the next aircraft accident report and the investigator takes for granted that the reader of this report read the similar thing on the other accident report on aircraft N222AH, a report that same investigator also wrote.”
Butler went even further in his critique of the report and said: “Also, for example, in the report under the part related to safety actions it says ‘the Air Accident Investigation Department reiterates the following safety recommendations previously sent to the attention of the director general of the BCAA for action,’ this is the same investigator who just earlier stated that the BCAA’s plan to address safety recommendations is satisfactory.”
“It looks as if the chief investigator at the BAAID is not satisfied with the director general of the BCAA’s lack of action. In my humble opinion, we don’t need more regulations, we need to enforce and implement the ones on the books,” Butler concluded.
In the six months after the crash on Andros, there was another fatal plane crash in early June on the island of Eleuthera, leaving three Americans dead. Officials have told Caribbean News Now that they are awaiting DNA samples to return in order to identify the bodies officially.
When reached by Caribbean News Now on the comments and developments and lack of movement on the issue of safety and security measures being acted upon as recommended in the N-62769 accident report for Andros, the ministry of tourism and aviation, the government department responsible for both agencies, referred our requests to the chief investigator and director general of BAAID and BCAA respectively.
According to the chief investigator at BAAID, Delvin Major, the matter is officially concluded as per the final report. BCAA Director General, Charles Beneby, has not been reached for comment at this time.