KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Civil aviation officials here and not the sub-regional body are responsible for disseminating to the public limited information about the contents of reports on aircraft mishaps here, even as Vincentians try to find out why two planes from the same company disappeared in flight in four years.
Two SVG Air aircrafts vanished in flight between 2006 and 2010 and both incidents have been investigated fully by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA), Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Tuesday.
But very limited information on ECCAA’s final reports on the incidents has been given to the public, including the media.
A reporter asked Gonsalves about this during a press conference at the end of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority Meeting.
“That’s not the fault of the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority,” Gonsalves said.
“They will submit the investigative reports to the national entity and to the external authorities. And it is up to the national entities to make available the contents of the reports as you go along,” he said.
“But all of these mishaps, certainly during my time, all of them, every single one of them, have been investigated by ECCAA and reports provided,” said Gonsalves, who came to office in March 2001.
Two planes missing
According to reports, on Nov. 19, 2006, air traffic controllers at the E.T. Joshua Airport logged an SVG Air aircraft as having landed although the aircraft never made it to the airport.
Nicha Branker, mother of Rasheed Ibrahim, raised the alarm after waiting fruitlessly outside the airport for her son, the sole passenger of the five-seater aircraft piloted by Dominic Gonsalves.
The men were on a routine 15-minute domestic flight from Canouan aboard the twin-engine Aero Commander 500S aircraft.
On final approach to E.T. Joshua Airport around 6:51 p.m., Dominic Gonsalves, who had been a pilot for 26 years, descended to 1,100 feet over Bequia in the Northern Grenadines and sought the control tower’s permission to land.
He gave his anticipated landing time as around 6:55 p.m.
The plane never landed and air traffic control personnel never noticed that the plane had not arrived until after 8 p.m. The search for the missing aircraft started around 9:30 p.m.
Fishermen found items from the aircraft about two-miles northwest of Bequia, which is located nine miles southeast of the E.T. Joshua Airport.
The items comprised an unused flare kit, an uninflated lifejacket, a wheel chock with the marking “SVG Air”, a seat rest and a seat.
Gonsalves promised a full and thorough investigation into the handling of the incident, including the response by tower and search and rescue.
Four years later, on Aug. 5, 2010, a chartered Cessna 402 plane belonging to SVG Air crashed on its way to the Canouan from E.T. Joshua Airport to transport a patient from Canouan to Kingstown.
The person died while awaiting the arrival of the aircraft, which, along with its pilot Rudolph Suresh Lakhram was never found.