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SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 21, 2000 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---The two pilots of the ill-fated Air Fiji PC121 flight have been blamed for the crash that claimed 17 lives, including their own.

A full report on the accident, released to the media yesterday, said that the pilot-in-command had insufficient rest before the flight and had taken medication which may have degraded his ability to safely pilot the aircraft.

The report said the co-pilot had insufficient training and did not know how to react when he recognized that the pilot-in-command was having difficulties. And neither crewmember had received crew resource management training.

These reasons led the investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to believe that the pilots were at fault and may have caused the tragic accident, which occurred in inland Viti Levu last July.

The investigators said no evidence was found of any fault in the aircraft or the weather that may have contributed to the accident.

Their report stated that the examination of company documentation indicated that check and training records were not appropriately maintained.

It said that Air Fiji pilots interviewed during the investigation indicated a low level of skills and knowledge on the operation of the Bandeirante aircraft and a lack of adherence to standard operating procedures.

Deficiencies were found with the level of surveillance conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji. The investigation team has made several recommendations as a result of their findings.

One is for the government to ensure that the aviation authority is adequately resourced with well-qualified and experienced people for the surveillance of all commercial aircraft operators.

Regular training meetings for pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers should be conducted.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry told a press conference that the Civil Aviation Authority and the government have put in place several measures to ensure that accidents do not reoccur.

He said the authority has strengthened its check on aircraft operations, maintenance and pilots, and has provided additional staff to carry out these checks.

"Local officers have been given additional responsibilities and training to carry out their work more effectively," Mr. Chaudhry said.

"Regular training and safety education meetings are also being conducted for pilots and operators.

"Aviation safety reports are now being circulated to the aviation industry to inform them about safety and the precautions that they need to take.

"Aviation regulations are being reviewed to enable testing of all aviation personnel on substance abuse," Prime Minister Chaudhry noted.

Attorney General Anand Singh said the tests will be conducted randomly by regulators.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fiji Live.

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