Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 19 September 2018

Open letter to South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority


By Telar Ring Deng

On the cold morning of 9th September 2018, we were all in utter shock and bewilderment at the very tragic accident that occurred in Eastern Lakes State when a Plane crashed into a lake claiming 20 lives, 3 were seriously injured and further reports stated that 3 others were still missing.

It has equally been reported that this very same plane not too far ago had a near mishap when in Pibor as it was transporting passengers. Despite air transport being recognized as the safest mode of transport, in South Sudan, we have had far too many plane crashes that have remained unresolved. Furthermore, it appears as though our systems are so weak to the point that we were glad that the names of those on the ill-fated plane were made public.

It is unfortunate that those who died a very painful and disgraceful death. Phone calls were made were the plane was still airborne to inform friends and relatives that they would not make it. Reports indicate that it was so hot inside the plane that the passengers were fanning themselves while in the plane. Furthermore, the passengers had to strip naked so that they may mitigate the extent of the burns in case the plane caught fire from the impact of the crash.

As a responsible citizen and more so one who was personally affected having lost three of my relatives in addition to our Lord the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Yirol and the 16 passengers on boards, there deaths should not be in vain. This must come to an end. Those responsible for these unfortunate but avoidable deaths must be held accountable.

For starters, the recovery of the black box was positive news. We hope that it will not be tampered with and will be used to ascertain exactly what transpired. Over and above this, the Civil Aviation’s Authority has its work cut out. They need to ascertain the registration details of the plane in South Sudan, if not registered in South Sudan; did the management acquire requisite licences? Was the plane airworthy? When it was last serviced, by who and where!

Furthermore, the internationally accepted criterion for investigating a plane crash is as follows:
1. Operations – Investigators must check the history of the accident flight and crew members duties for as many days prior to the crash as it appears relevant. With this, it will also establish the aircraft’s service record.
2. Structures – the investigators look at the documentation of the airframe wreckage and the accident scene; including calculations of impact angles to help determine the planes pre-impact course and attitude.
3. Power plants – examination of engines, propellers and engine accessories
4. Systems – study of the components of the planes hydraulic, electrical, pneumatic and associated systems together with instruments and elements of the flight control system.
5. Air Traffic Control – Reconstruction of air traffic services given to the pilot in flight including the acquisition of Air Traffic Control radar data and transcripts of controller-pilot radio transmission.
6. Weather–gathering of all the pertinent weather data from the national weather service for a broad area around the accident scene
If the investigations are to follow the afore-stated pattern, we will be able to arrive at a logical finding that will bring those culpable to answer for their negligence and recklessness.

Finally, it must be categorically stated that the affected families of the deceased will seek to pursue legal action against the Company under whose management the Aircraft was under. Furthermore, we may not wish to pre-empt the investigations, however, we are mindful of the fact that there may be criminal culpability established hence we will be looking forward to the arraignment of those who will be found to be criminally liable in court.

The author is a South Sudanese politician. He served as a former minister, governor, presidential adviser and ambassador

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