Air Botswana Acted Illegally
I read with disbelief your article titled “Khama’s Air Botswana Stunt That Endangered passengers “ on The Botswana Gazette dated 20/09/17. This was in reference to the alleged 500 feet low level fly past at the 2017 race for rhinos event.
Now I read, on Government’s Facebook page, with total shock that indeed this wasn’t a fictitious story but an actual event that Air Botswana confirms.
The first and of utmost importance question that Air Botswana must answer is whether a low fly past at 500 feet, on a commercial aeroplane, with passengers on board is permitted and legal under the safety rules and regulations of CAAB and ICAO? The simple answer to that is a big NO! The air safety rules and regulations from CAAB and ICAO cannot be clearer on this, and there are no exceptions!For Air Botswana to receive, process and proceed with a request from the Office of the President that clearly contravenes the air safety rules and regulations baffles the mind. It is either the airline management is naive or ignorant of the air safety rules and regulations or both.
Air Botswana must know that being granted a permit by CAAB, legal or illegal, the final responsibility lies with them as an operator to ensure that their passengers are not subjected to any unsafe aircraft manoeuvre that will contravene the air safety rules and regulations. A low fly past at 500 feet at some air show , such as the race for rhinos constitutes such an unsafe manoeuvre.
The fact that Air Botswana further goes on to confirm that they have performed such an illegal and unsafe manoeuvre with passengers on board, at the same event in 2016 goes to prove that the airline management is either naive or reckless or both!
All parties involved on this matter, perhaps, except the Office of the President cannot claim ignorance with the CAAB and ICAO air safety rules and regulations. I exempt the office of the President since my opinion as an experienced pilot is purely based on civil Aviation matters.
But then, if the Office of the President was duly informed by Air Botswana and CAAB respectively, that not only was their request for a low level fly past with passengers on board illegal and unsafe but was also in clear contravention of the CAAB and ICAO air safety rules and regulations, then they too must be apportioned blame.
Air Botswana as airline, is governed under the CAAB and ICAO rules and regulations. The airline management, especially the flight operations division are expected to be fully aquatinted with these rules and regulations. Ignorance of these rules is basically criminal and shall not absolve the airline from blame should an incident/ accident occur due to their violation/s.
CAAB on the other hand is the regulator that provides oversight over civil aviation operators and matters. They are there to ensure that civil aviation operators such as Air Botswana play by the rules and regulations, to enhance safety of the travelling public. If indeed CAAB issued such a permit to Air Botswana that clearly contravenes its own air safety rules and regulations is shocking to say the least.
The proudly mentioned, as seasoned Captain and First Officer, who conducted this illegal 500 feet low fly past with passengers on board, are too governed by the CAAB and ICAO rules and regulations. They too clearly must know the air safety rules and regulations, what they stand for, and the serious consequences for any violation/s. The serious consequences are not only limited to them being punished, but catastrophic consequences due to any failure, be it engine, jammed controls, bird strike and/ or pilot error at those low levels/ altitude.
In conclusion, we must all know why rules and regulations have been formulated, to enhance safety. We must all know that there aren’t any exceptions when it comes to rules and regulations. And we must all know that violations of air safety rules and regulations lead to incidents/ accidents and some, catastrophic and extremely painful!
Capt. Kethotswe Dick Mulalu.