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'Hazardous' range

Luke Rawalai
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

EXPERIENCED aviators Captain William Gardiner and Captain Rainjesh San have described the Delaikoro mountain range of Cakaudrove as hazardous for pilots during inclement weather.

They made the assessments in light of the disappearance of a Cessna 172 aircraft on Monday.

Northern Air chief executive officer Capt San said clouds usually formed over the Delaikoro mountain range about 11am on days of clear weather.

He said during bad weather, pilots were greatly challenged when flying over the mountains of Cakaudrove.

He said instructors were experienced people, adding that they were in a position to make correct decisions.

Capt San said the flight training was to nensure correct decisions were made when a trainee became a fully-fledged pilot.

"In my own opinion, the Delaikoro mountain range can still be navigable during bad weather, but pilots just need to get the minimum flight conditions and the visual meteorological conditions right, which are conditions in which pilots have sufficient visibility to fly the aircraft, maintaining visual separation from terrain and other aircraft," Cpt Sen said.

"However, pilots need to be mindful of the area because cloud buildups begin in the area around 11am, but during bad weather it can be challenging."

"I cannot make a comment on the decision they made, but there must have been a condition that the instructor saw that made him continue with the flight.

"On the other side, if the weather was not good, they should have spent the night in Labasa."

Capt San said they kept their hopes high at the moment, praying to God that everything would be all right with the trainee and her instructor.

A retired pilot of 45 years, Mr Gardiner said the terrain between Savusavu and Labasa was unpredicatable during bad weather.

"When it is bad weather the pass becomes a real challenge to navigate," said Cpt Gardiner.

The 56-year-old said it was too premature to say anything yet as inquiries and the search for the Cessna 172 aircraft continued yesterday.

"The instructor is experienced and has been instructing for the past five years," he said.

"It is too early to say anything yet because there are other factors that may have contributed to the mishap.

"Even with bad weather, aviators have a minimum safe altitude on which they can travel through stormy conditions before descending, but procedures are there and the instructor is well versed with them.

"At the moment we need to await the results of investigations and inquiries into the incident before we can make a comment."

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