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Beacons on Board Not a Legal Need, Hearing Told

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Beacons on Board Not a Legal Need, Hearing Told Wreckage from the Cessna 172 plane that crashed into the Delaikoro ridge. Photo: DEPTFO News

Light aircraft similar to the Pacific Flying School Cessna 172 which was involved in a crash at Delaikoro Ridge in Macuata, Vanua Levu on February 26, 2018 are not required under the Civil Aviation Act to have emergency locator beacons.

Airports Fiji Limited Co-head of Operations Air Traffic Management Amit Singh said this was something which needed to be looked at by the regulators.

Responding to questions by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs on Thursday, Mr Singh said one of the constraints in the crash situation was the fact that there was no beacon available.

He added that the unfavourable weather and the rough terrain were also a big challenge.

“Our condolences to the families of the two pilots that we have just lost. I say this with emotion because we handle air traffic control,” Mr Singh said.

“Whenever such accidents happen it is a very emotional situation.”

He said it was a sensitive issue because the aviation industry was a close knit community. “Whenever a distress signal is activated the satellite gives the signal to us, we plot the co-ordinates and we send it across to the Fiji Navy,” he said.

He stated that all air traffic management (ATM) staff are trained for search and rescue operations.

“All ATM staff who are on shift, either in Nadi, Nausori or the outer islands like Labasa, Savusavu, and Rotuma act as alerting posts for search and rescue,” he said.

“Whenever we hear those calls for distress we are trained to react.”

AFL is the aviation sub-rescue centre in Fiji and co-ordinates rescue efforts with the Fiji Rescue Co-ordination Centre (Fiji RCC), which was previously based with AFL in Nadi and is now based with the Fijian Navy at Stanley Brown Naval Base, in Walu Bay, Suva.

“Fiji RCC is the command post now and we are the aviation sub-rescue centre. There is a maritime sub-rescue centre and one for land which is headed by the Police,” Mr Singh said.

“Our responsibility is not only for domestic but for the entire flight information region. If it is out of our capability than we call in Wellington RCC or the Australian Air force or the United States coast guard.”

Mr Singh said investigations on the crash were still under way.

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