x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Al Ain air crash investigation thwarted

A preliminary investigation into the February plane crash in Al Ain that killed four Americans has been hampered because there was no black box on the plane.

ABU DHABI // An investigation into the cause of a plane crash that killed four Americans in Al Ain last month has been hampered because the small 1940s prop seaplane did not have a black box, a preliminary report released yesterday said.

Because the antique aircraft did not have a flight data recorder, the team of US and Emirati investigators will perform laboratory tests on parts of the wreckage. Black boxes are not required for planes that seat fewer than 10 passengers.

“The investigators are going to examine the pieces of the wreckage, and this will take a very long time,” said Hanan Moussa, the communications manager for the General Civil Aviation Authority, the agency that released the report.

Ms Moussa said the investigation was ongoing and would take “many months” to be completed.

The preliminary report said that the plane, a McKinnon G21G turboprop, which crashed onto the taxiway shortly after take-off from Al Ain International Airport on February 27, had hit the ground with its nose down and on its left side.

“No signs of inflight break-up or pre-impact fire were observed in the vicinity of the accident site,” the report read.

The aircraft had been stored in the UAE since August and was parked inside a hangar. The plane underwent routine maintenance on the day of the crash, described in the report as preventive maintenance that included the installation of an extra fuel tank.

The private plane was en route to Riyadh on the first leg of a week-long trip that would have taken the four men to Morocco and South America before ending up in Texas. The seaplane was owned by Triple S Aviation, a Texas-based company with a consultancy in Dubai.

The Grumman Goose seaplane was a one-of-a-kind aircraft, experts said. The plane was modified in the 1970s, but the changes to the craft were unique and did not meet usual standards for modifications. The GCAA’s preliminary report notes that the investigative team planned to work with the US National Transport Safety Board to obtain more specific information about the modifications.

All four men were killed instantly. Landon Studer, 28, was the plane’s owner and the founder of Triple S Aviation. The company’s international project manager, Joshua Hucklebridge, 28, airline pilot Chuck Kimes, 61, and pilot Tyler Orsow, 25, were also on the aircraft.

A final report, expected to detail the cause of the crash, may not be available for several months.

jthomas@thenational.ae