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Sunday 19 January 2020
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Imbert: Preliminary reports of ATR brake malfunction

Finance Minister Colm Imbert
Finance Minister Colm Imbert

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert says preliminary reports on the accident involving an ATR plane at the Piarco airport on Wednesday night, point to the braking system not functioning.

He was responding to an urgent question in the House yesterday.

Imbert said the Civil Aviation Authority was doing an independent investigation and Caribbean Airlines (CAL) was doing its own internal investigation. At the post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday, Imbert said the preliminary estimate for repair work was US $1 million, but added the aircraft was insured and the only loss would be the usual deductible.

Chaguanas East MP Fazal Karim asked if the manufacturers would be part of the investigation.

Imbert replied: "I cannot say, but I think that Caribbean Airlines would most certainly consult the manufacturers to determine their view on what caused the accident and also what should be done to bring the aircraft back to a serviceable state."

Karim asked if it was normal for an engineer to taxi an aircraft at that time of night. The accident happened at 11.15 pm. Imbert replied he could not answer that question with any precise detail.

"However I can say that the particular individual who was taxiing the aircraft was trained to do so by ATR at its headquarters in Toulouse in France."

He said that was the information given to him by CAL, but whether the person was certified to taxi at that time of night, "I will certainly find out."

Imbert stressed the accident was not a crash but, during taxiing, the aircraft collided with a wall. He said there could be many causes and, while preliminary reports indicated the braking system was not functioning, it would be irresponsible to speculate until the investigations were completed.

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal asked for the timeline for the investigation, and Imbert said he was unable to give one.

He added: "But I can assure you it will be done in the shortest possible time."

Moonilal also asked for the names of investigators, and Imbert said he would provide that information later.

CAL in a media release yesterday said preliminary reports indicated that soon after the aircraft began to taxi, the aircraft engineer noticed that the hydraulic system was not activated.

"The result was that the nose wheel steering and braking system was not available. Consequently, the front section of the aircraft’s fuselage came into contact with the wall of the terminal building. The aircraft was not in active service and there were no passengers or crew on board."

CAL said an investigation was immediately initiated by CAL and the TT Tobago Civil Aviation Authority "to determine the root cause and to avoid recurrence." CAL said the aircraft has since been withdrawn from service and the cost to repair the aircraft is being assessed and those costs would be covered by Caribbean Airlines’ insurance.

CAL noted that, prior to the occurrence, the airline was engaged in discussions with a potential lessor to obtain a wet lease to supplement its fleet using a similar aircraft type.

"Once this arrangement is finalised, the wet lease will operate from April 8 to September 30, 2019."

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