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By Matelita Ragogo

SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 10, 1999 - Fiji Times)---The Air Fiji PC 121 flight that crashed on a hill in Naitasiri two weeks ago was flying below the lowest safe attitude of 5400 feet, a report says.

But the investigation team could not determine why the aircraft was flying at such a low altitude.

An Australian aviation investigation team said the flight crew were qualified, but noted it was unlikely that the captain had adequate rest before going to work.

The preliminary report by the three Australian investigators from the Australian Safety Investigation was presented in Cabinet yesterday by Aviation Minister Meli Bogileka.

The investigation said their discussions with flight crews established that the importance of understanding and comprehensive specific training on crew resource management was not understood within the organization.

A witness at the airport said that after departure, the aircraft diverged from the direct Nausori-Nadi track, but this was later corrected.

The report said that at 5:26 a.m., the aircraft left Nausori and the Nadi Air Traffic Control was advised to expect transmission from PC 121 at 5:35 a.m.

At 5:32 a.m., the crew advised Nausori Control that they were flying at 5,500 feet.

At 5:33 a.m., the crew advised the Nausori Control that they were traveling at 6,000 feet and were maintaining the direct Nausori-Nadi track.

At 5:35 a.m., the expected transmission from PC 121 was not received by Nadi ATC. On inquiry, the Nausori ATC confirmed it also had not heard from PC 121.

"The ATC staff at Nausori later commented that because transmission from an emergency beacon was not received, the ATC staff had assumed that the aircraft crashed but was either continuing into Nadi or returning to Nausori,'' the report said.

A Delailasakau woman observed aircraft, which had "sounded closer than normal'' at 6 a.m. She watched until she saw the explosion and after waking up fellow villagers, she raced to the neighboring village to alert the telephone operator.

The report recommends that Government ensures the Civil Aviation Authority of the Fiji Islands has qualified and experienced personnel to conduct frequent scheduled and unscheduled surveillance audits and conduct regional operational safety education meetings.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times).


SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 10, 1999 – Fiji Post)---Investigators of the ill-fated Air Fiji flight PC121 have found that the plane collided first with a huge tree at an altitude of 1,300 feet before it crashed, the Daily Post reports.

This happened about 1.3 kilometers (.78 miles) from the main crash site, 22 miles west of Nausori Airport on July 24.

The investigators revealed that a grid search of the aircraft's flight path found a tree with large broken branches on the ridgeline near the main wreckage site.

Impact evidence on the right wing of the plane was consistent with the aircraft having collided with the tree before it crashed, the report said.

However, investigators could not determine why the aircraft was flying below the lowest safe altitude of 5,400 feet.

The preliminary report on the crash was released by Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

It revealed that examination of the engines and propellers indicated that although the right engine had been operating at a high power setting during the prior collision, both engines were operating at "low power" at the time of the final impact.

However, investigators failed to find evidence of a pre-existing defect with the aircraft or its systems that may have influenced the circumstances of the accident.

The report was compiled by three Australian aviation experts brought in by the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji Islands (CAAFI).

All 15 passengers and two pilots onboard died when the plane crashed at Mataicicia hill in Naitasiri, ten minutes after take-off from Nausori bound for Nadi International Airport.

The investigators found that the complete tail unit had separated from the fuselage, due to impact induced in-flight stresses that exceeded the aircraft's structural strength, immediately prior to the final impact.

PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius:

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