Five months in counting after a fatal plane crash which killed the Chief of Staff of the West African nation of Guinea and his entourage near Liberia’s Robert International Airport (RIA) on February 11, 2013 en-route to attend that country’s Arm Forces Day celebrations, unblemished revelations gathered through investigation conducted by this outlet confirms that Liberia could stand liable for the death of the Guinean Chief of Staff and his entourage.
According to the findings of the investigation fetched from sources in authority of Liberia’s airport and aviation managements but requested anonymity, unveiled huge tray of incapacity, share recklessness, and calculated deception designed to shield Liberia’s obligation and responsibilities required of it like every aviation nation.
The investigation found that the aviation industry requires that if an aircraft has a failure or fire on the Final Approach, the receiving airport must have the navigational capabilities and know how to vector the plane unto the runway through the shortest and safest route but dishearteningly, the Roberts International Airport did not have and does not have the fire and rescue equipment that were capable of responding within minutes to mitigate more loss of lives by having on time responses to remove passengers from the burning jet.
On the contrary, Liberia is yet to have these emergency equipment at the airport despite several request made by the airport former Managing Director, Ellen Corkrum, a major in the United States Air Force and commercial pilot but the airport and government intentionally mislead the aviation industry and the flying public that these equipment are in operation at the airport.
Further investigation reveals that Delta Airlines developed and tested the RNAV GPS approach into the airport and upon completion, it received (Federal Aviation Administration) FAA approval and clearance. The system enhances the pilot’s ability to bring the plane to the runway even if there is an engine failure or fire under a zero visibility condition. The pilot must use their judgment to guess whether they are on the runway touchdown zone or short of the runway as in the case with the Guinean plane. The RNAV GPS system is the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) which alerts the pilot when the aircraft is approaching the ground or obstacles not within the runway the plane is positioned to land.
Delta Airlines gave a one million ($1 million) system to the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA) with specific directives to publish the approach procedure in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) for use in Liberian airspace by all aircrafts arriving and departing in keeping with Liberia’s obligations and responsibilities to the International Civil Aviation Organization (IACO). The LCAA and Liberian government are yet to publish this all important procedure but put the aviation industry and the flying public, including Delta Airlines under the impression that the procedure is published and usable by all aircrafts.
In the event of adverse weather, the RNAV GPS precisely guides the plane to the runway and unto the touchdown zone even if the pilot is unable to recognize any identifying runway markings or lights germane to pilots. The RNAV GPS is also used in the military, it enhances pilots’ ability to bring aircrafts to the runway under zero visibility conditions. Where the RNAV GPS fails the pilots must use their judgment to guess whether they are on the runway touchdown zone, or just short of the runway as in the case with the Guinean aircraft.
Other disturbing evidence gathered from the investigation further uncovered the Roberts International Airport does not have the Very High Omni directional Radio Range Equipment (VOR) which must be available at airports for aircrafts for navigational aid to monitor an airplane’s position during approach to touchdown on the runway. Though the VOR approach is published only on paper, the equipment is not available at the airport and does not exist.
Liberia in essence is deceiving the aviation industry, the flying public, and specifically pilots that they can tune up the VOR and expect its guidance to the runway and when pilots develop their flight plan, long before taking off from their departure airport and is expecting to make a VOR approach, they subsequently realize later when approaching the runway that they realized the VOR system is not available and really does not exist.
Unfortunately, according to our investigation, in December 2012, after discussion with Delta pilots and a drive around at the airport’s ground, they discovered and revealed the lapse and upon review of the airport’s approach plates (the map design to guide from the air into the airport to land), Liberia continues to deceive pilots of the existence of this procedure but in reality the airport does not have the equipment.
The investigation unraveled yet other mind bulging evidence that in the absence of what pilots expect to be at an airport, like navigational equipment, runway availability, fire and rescue, etc., an airport has the responsibility for releasing such information and ensuring that it is published in NOTAMS (Notice to Airmen). The NOTAM alerts pilots of such things as hazards, closed runways and taxiways, inoperable navigational aids, airspace restriction, inoperable approach and runway lights, obstruction on the runway—such as asphalt debris which could slash tires or be ingested into engines, etc.
On the contrary, the Roberts International Airport does not again have the NOTAMS have not been published by Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA), is responsible for publishing the NOTAMS. Apparently the LCAA has developed some obsolete system to mitigate the conventional requirement where they punch in the NOTAMS but do not ensure that it is disseminated through the channels that pilots can access through the web site is maintained by the US military and opened to the public and to all pilots across the world. Evidence indicates that the airport’s last published its obsolete NOTAM was May 2011 even though NOTAMS are published on a daily basis, depending on the condition of an airport.
In view of these findings, Liberia could stand liable for the death of the Guinean Chief of Staff and his entourage because if an aircraft engine fails, especially just short of the runway, the receiving airport is obliged to have the aforementioned NAV AIDS and suitable runway and if these equipment are not available at the receiving airport as the present calamity the Roberts International Airport, consequently the nation becomes a contributing factor to the deaths.
In air crash investigation, the investigating body identifies a sequence of events that either lead to, contribute to or mitigate the crash.
Our investigation revealed that some international stakeholders and governments are taking a renewed interest in the Guinean plane crash in Liberia having discovered the gross aviation violations and deception by the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority and the government.
Sources close to the Liberia Aviation Authority hinted our investigation on anonymity that the former LAA acting managing director had authorized an audit of the airport navigational, electronic, fire and rescue runway and other systems. The audit revealed serious lapses that threaten the lives of US and other military as well as civilians flying in and out of the Roberts International Airport which could result in an international ban on the airport and ultimately posing a devastating effect on the country.
Our investigation found that the office of President Sirleaf’s Deputy Chief of Staff openly discussed a copy of the report that was addressed to her and has sparked queries in the United States provoking pending investigation by aviation authorities and officials of other countries, some of whom have already contacted the former Managing Director of the airport, Ellen Corkrum who was relieved of her post and is advised her to keep all relevant information in her possession under seal until the pending investigation.
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