By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
THE pastor who piloted the Piper PA32 Cherokee Six that crash landed in waters off Treasure Cay, Abaco last year had no valid certificates of airworthiness or registration for the plane at the time of the incident, according to the Air Accident Investigation Authority.
On August 26, 2020 at about 7.31am, Bishop Cedric Bullard crash landed the small aircraft in a swampy area just after takeoff. He was leaving Abaco’s Treasure Cay Airport for the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau.
At the time of the crash, Bishop Bullard had four passengers with him – his son and three of his church members. No one was injured in the crash. He said just after takeoff, he was attempting to climb to altitude and observed that the plane was not climbing. He said the aircraft lost engine pressure.
The AAIA issued a bulletin on its findings of the crash which revealed the violations and that the aircraft should not have been airborne.
According to the AAIA’s official bulletin, Bishop Bullard’s Piper Cherokee registered in The Bahamas - C6-TOY - experienced an engine failure shortly after departing the Treasure Cay Airport (MYAT).
The bulletin read, “The private flight departed MYAT with five souls on board, and the pilot advised that shortly after take-off there was a loss in engine power. The pilot decided to ditch the aircraft in a nearby swamp. There were no reports of injuries to persons; however, the aircraft suffered damage to wings and propellers.
“The pilot in command of the aircraft held a valid private pilot licence issued by the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority dated April 26, 2018 and a 2nd class medical certificate issued August 1, 2020. At the time of the accident, the aircraft operated without valid certificates of registration and airworthiness, as both expired March 31, 2017.”
The Tribune contacted Bishop Bullard yesterday about the violations. He blamed office closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the situation.
He said, “I worked with the authorities. I gave all the information to them and what happened is that, yes because of COVID-19, I flew the airplane, but there was no way to get around from Abaco. We had to get back and forward. Bahamasair or no one was flying at that time.
“The only problem was that I bought it and I couldn’t get all the registration done. I submitted everything to the authorities. All the inspection was done, but it’s just that we didn’t get the airworthy certificate from the relevant authorities. It was submitted, but every time we called, due to COVID, the office was closed. It was like that for many months before we got anything done.”
Asked if he replaced the plane and if it was insured, he said, “Not as yet. I am hoping to. No, it was not insured. It’s the same thing I said before. All those papers were submitted, but because of COVID-19 everything was just slow. Everything would have been done otherwise.”
Bishop Bullard says the previous owner of the plane would be the one responsible for the plane’s certificates being expired for so long. He claimed that he only bought the plane a few months before the crash. Due to the plane not being insured, he will have to replace the plane out of pocket.
He said he is “believing the Lord for a twin engine, this time.”
At the time of the crash, the AAIA also confirmed that the Royal Bahamas Defence Force rescued the five passengers on board the downed Piper Cherokee aircraft.
Abaco is no stranger to aircraft crashes. On August 25, 2001, a day shy of the same date of Bishop Bullard’s crash, the high profile crash of a Cessna 402 twin-engine light aircraft carrying American singer and actress Aaliyah and part of her entourage took place just after takeoff from the Marsh Harbour Airport. That particular crash took the lives of the pilot and all eight passengers on board.
The AAIA bulletin also revealed that weather conditions were not a factor in the 2020 crash as at the time, there were visual meteorological conditions. The report said a limited scope investigation was conducted, no safety message or recommendations were issued.
Bulletins from the AAIA are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding an aviation occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They are to provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of a full investigation. The bulletins provide a summary of the less-complex factual investigation reports conducted by the AAIA.