By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
A PRELIMINARY report into the plane crash that killed nine people in Grand Bahama on November 9 attributed the main cause of the tragedy to deteriorating weather conditions that reduced visibility resulting in a missed landing on the aircraft’s second approach to the airport.
The report was released yesterday.
In its findings, the Department of Civil Aviation’s Air Accident Investigation & Prevention Unit (AAIPU) explained that on the day of the crash, Meteorological Department officials released a weather report indicating that there was a frontal boundary over the northwest Bahamas.
Additionally, the weather report said there was the possibility of heavy showers and moderate to severe turbulence in the aircraft’s flying vicinity. It listed the daytime visibility at 1.5 at the time of the crash.
“The aircraft was unable to land on first attempt, due to heavy rain showers and reduced visibility,” the report said. “The crew executed a missed approach procedure and continued outbound and entered the published holding pattern at 2,000 feet. Some time after entering the holding pattern, ATC (air traffic control) reported the weather as improving and thus a second. . .approach was requested by the crew and granted by ATC.
“During the return for the second instrument approach, ATC reported the weather as again deteriorating due to rain and haze. While attempting to find the runway visually during the second approach, the aircraft descended and subsequently struck a towering crane at the Grand Bahama Shipyard.”
The report said the plane hit two support beams above the crane operator’s cab, approximately 115 feet mean sea level.
After losing the outboard portion of its right wing and fuel tank, the aircraft continued its “downward, uncontrolled descent, crashing inverted into a mound of garbage at the City Services Limited, (a garbage and metal recycling plant) which is located adjacent to the Grand Bahama Shipyard,” the report said.
The aircraft stopped after colliding with a metal generator-housing unit located at the recycling plant, the investigators said.
Pilot, Captain Stanley Thurston and co-pilot, First Officer Frahkan Cooper were licensed and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the ill-fated eight-seater Learjet 36, AAIPU officials said.
Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI) Senior Pastor Dr Myles Munroe, 60, his wife Ruth, BFMI Vice-president Dr Richard Pinder, newly ordained youth pastors Lavard “Manifest” Parks, his pregnant wife Radel, and their five-year-old son Johanan died when the jet hit a crane at the Grand Bahama Shipyard. American citizen Diego DeSantiago was also on board the flight.
They all died immediately on impact.
“(Both pilots) were in possession of valid first class medical certificates, which were issued in November, 2014,” the report said.
“Day instrument meteorological conditions prevailed upon the departure of the aircraft from Odyssey Aviation, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the 24 minute flight to Freeport. The preliminary report has also confirmed that the Bahamas Area Forecast published on November 9, 2014 by the Bahamas Meteorological Department advised that there was a frontal boundary over the northwest Bahamas and lower, moving over the northern Bahamas.
“The aircraft uploaded 160 gallons of fuel prior to its departure, was provided with the current weather conditions upon contact with Freeport Air Traffic Control, and was cleared for an instrument approach.”
Investigators found that there was never a fire or explosion on board the Learjet as was previously speculated.
The aircraft was equipped with a Fairchild Model GA100 Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and 2 Honeywell International N1 Digital Electronic Engine Control monitors which were recovered and sent to the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, DC and Honeywell International in Wichita, Kansas respectively, for readout.
Bahamian civil aviation officials with the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Bombardier – the manufacturer of the aircraft – will reassemble in Washington, DC, next month, to continue investigations.
According to initial reports from the Department of Civil Aviation, the plane left Nassau shortly after 4pm and crashed around 5.10pm in Grand Bahama.
Dr Munroe was an internationally acclaimed author, motivational speaker and consultant who ministered around the world.
The group was flying into Grand Bahama from New Providence for an annual leadership conference organised by Dr Munroe.
A memorial for Dr Munroe and his wife will be held on December 3 beginning 6pm at the national stadium. Their funeral is scheduled for the next day at BFMI on Carmichael Road.