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Air crashes: CAASL downplays sabotage concerns

  • Victims can make insurance claims from operator: CAASL 

By Aazam Ameen 

The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) last week downplayed industry concerns that sabotage may have played a part in the two recent crashes involving two light aircraft, stating that no evidence to the effect had been found thus far and that investigations were ongoing. 

The allegation of possible sabotage comes following the recent emergency landings made by two aircraft attached to Sakurai Aviation Ltd. over the past two weeks, involving a Piper PA 38 registered as 4R-ASJ and a Cessna 172 registered as 4R-GAF. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, some industry insiders opined that such an act may have been committed by external forces due to Sakurai’s post-Covid performance. 

“Quite a few students have shifted from other schools to Sakurai to seek pilot training. Post-Covid, the company has bounced back quite well, with several students training with them. Additionally, they attracted a lot of private charters, including foreigners and celebrities. Due to such factors, there may be some professional jealousy,” industry experts, speaking to us upon terms of anonymity, told The Sunday Morning

When contacted by The Sunday Morning regarding these concerns, CAASL Additional Director General P.A. Jayakantha downplayed the concerns and stated that such revelations could not be made until the investigation had concluded. 

“The process of investigating both these matters is still ongoing; it will take some time to complete. We don’t have any kind of evidence to prove that it was an act of sabotage and no one has made such a complaint. It may be sabotage, but we cannot reveal anything until the investigation is over,” he said. 

In terms of the report, which will be compiled once the investigation is over, Jayakantha said that some of the contents may be restricted or confidential. 

“We have to make a decision on whether to reveal all the information after reading the report. If it is sabotage, then the Government will have to conduct another investigation,” Jayakantha said. 

In terms of insurance, Jayakantha said that both aircraft were fully insured, including passenger liability insurance. 

“Any people who were injured can make claims from the operator. The CAA has the provisions for this,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Shehan Bandara, one of the pilots on board 4R-ASJ on the day of the incident (22 December), told The Sunday Morning that during their preflight checks, nothing out of the ordinary had been observed. 

“From the time we began our preflight checks, everything went smoothly. We carried out the power checks successfully as well. On that day, everything was smooth and there was no indication whatsoever of any abnormal activity. Twenty minutes into the flight, we lost engine power out of nowhere. Before this occurred, we did not observe any indications of an impending engine failure, such as vibrations or sputtering from the engine,” Bandara told The Sunday Morning

Bandara also said that he, along with his colleague onboard who was flying the sector, then visited the CAA for questioning. 

When queried on the emergency landing made by 4R-GAF on 27 December, Bandara said that apart from knowing that a similar issue of the engine losing power had occurred, he was not able to comment further as he was not involved in the incident. 

Since the incidents occurred, CAASL Director General Capt. Themiya Abeywickrama has reportedly written to Sakurai Aviation Ltd. ordering it to suspend its operations until further notice, as per the powers vested under Section 38 of the CAA Act No. 14 of 2010.

Several attempts to contact Sakurai Aviation Ltd. for its comments on the same proved futile.