Saitoti chopper crash pilot ‘was not cleared by expert’
Posted Thursday, August 2 2012 at 21:00
- Former Kenya Airforce commander says he was only picked because of his experience in military
The pilot of the helicopter that killed two ministers and four police officers in the Ngong crash in June was not assessed by a qualified examiner, the commission of inquiry investigating the accident heard on Thursday.
Captain Evans Sigilai, a former Kenya Airforce squadron commander, said he was authorised to examine Ms Nancy Gituanja in 2009 on helicopter handling because of his experience in the military.
He told the commission led by Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal that the only certified examiner in the country, a Mr Nyanjui, was indisposed at the time.
Captain Sigilai said he approved the pilot’s licence as her examiner on November 23, 2009 having been tasked by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority in an ad hoc appointment.
“I am not an instructor neither am I an examiner, but because of my vast experience I was told to assess the late Gituanja and she impressed me as an above average candidate,” Captain Sigilai, the commission’s sixth witness, said.
He went on: “I took the late Gituanja through a series of tests involving abnormal and emergency landing, engine and electrical malfunction procedures, auto-rotation exercises and graded her as ranging between satisfactory and good.”
Captain Sigilai, however, said he did not conduct other crucial tests, including an emergency fire drill, fuel carburettor malfunction and main rotor handling that involves actual simulation of scenarios with a student.
“But she displayed a high average ability in her eligibility test, as she gave me a theoretical procedure which met the minimal score,” he said.
He said he did not use a grading manual during the assessment as Ms Gituanja was not new to the machines, having been in service in the police airwing prior to their encounter.
He said the exercise was also conducted in the absence of a training manual from KCAA and the manufacturer.
He said he was not aware if she later upgraded her training to handle a Eurocopter model.
“It was a mere check and not a training per se, things were flowing, Gituanja was an experienced pilot,” he said.
He said he had not undergone any training in examination or flight instruction.
Asked by lawyer Fredrick Ngatia for the Saitoti family why he was picked to do the training, Captain Sigilai said the helicopter industry was constrained and KCAA had no examiners hence his nomination.
Mr Ngatia said a highly sensitive endorsement was handled casually.
“There was a lot of kienyeji and cowboy like appointments in play.”
The witness later disowned his earlier statements recorded with the commission, saying, they had typing errors. He said the Eurocopter fell below safety standards according to his assessment.