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Engine failure confirmed as cause of plane crash during interior shuttle

Captain Blake Slater

by Zena Henry

A full report into the January 2014 plane crash which claimed the lives of Canadian Pilot Captain Blake Slater and Guyanese cargo handler Dwayne Jacobs has pointed to engine failure as the most likely cause of the accident.

Former Public Works Ministry made the disclosure earlier in the year but did not release details. According to the extensive report by the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), “the investigation revealed that the probable cause of the accident was due to a power loss suffered by the engine.”

The incident occured on January 18, 2014 moments after Slater had radioed a distress signal while he was on a shuttle flight from Olive Creek to Imbaimadai.

The report said that the power loss was associated with a fracture of one of the first stage compressor stator vanes by fatigue. “The fatigue crack originated from a lack of brazing adhesion extending over approximately 0.280 inches along the chord length and 0.050 inches in the direction of the shroud thickness and was located between the leading edge and mid-chord of the vane.”

In their ‘General Findings,’ investigators reported that Slater’s crash flight was one of a series of cargo shuttles that had originated the day before the accident. The day prior, he had experienced a hard landing with another aircraft followed by a brake failure which had him concerned.  A decision was taken to replace that aircraft before he completed five shuttles on the day of the accident, with the sixth being fatal.

Outside of this, the Trans Guyana Airways 700 Cessna Caravan that Slater was flying had seven drums of fuel onboard and the company had no system in place for preparation of load sheets for shuttles from its sub-base, Olive Creek where the flight had taken off from heading to Imbaimadai; thus none was prepared for the flight.

While initial reports had claimed that the movement of cargo onboard the craft brought the plane down, investigators said, “The tie down method used was not effective because it only effectively secured the three drums that were lying flat on the floor. The four drums that were standing upright were not restrained. The drums that were not restrained shifted during the crash and squeezed both the pilot and third crew/loader who was seated behind the pilot and alongside the cargo.”

This was because the cargo barrier; a physical object between the cockpit and cargo was not used. However investigators said that TransGuyana was justified in not using the barrier as their cargo did not meet the requirement where it would have needed to take up 75 percent of the cargo space.

The post mortem examination on the planes’ occupants showed that Slater died from multiple injuries suffered to his head, neck, brain, spine, lungs and heart among other internal and external areas. The cargo handler died by asphyxiation due to crush injuries to the chest compounded by blunt trauma to the head. He too sustained multiple injuries internally and externally.

Other matters that indirectly contributed to the crash pertained to inspection specifically and recommendations were therefore made. They included the GCAA recruiting a qualified and experienced Flight Operations Officer and asking them to carry out regular simulation exercises in keeping with requirements of the Search And Rescue (SAR) Manual to improve the currency of stakeholders.

The Authority needs a resident Flight Operations Inspector or it “cannot provide the oversight that is necessary to ensure safe aircraft operations in Guyana.” Other recommendations to improve rescue operations, training, and functioning were made.