Solihull hero pilot was flying overloaded plane, says report

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Solihull hero pilot was flying overloaded plane, says report

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Solihull hero pilot was flying plane that was overloaded, says report
Donna Bowater, Birmingham Mail
May 23 2011

AN AIRLINE has been accused of putting “profit before safety” after a damning report into the death of a hero Midland pilot whose bravery saved his passengers’ lives.

Robert Mansell, from Knowle, died as he carried out an emergency landing in the Caribbean Sea when one of his plane’s engines failed off the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles on October 22, 2009.

The 32-year-old’s skill saved his nine Dutch passengers but now a report has found the Divi Divi Air craft was overloaded by almost ten per cent.

The investigation, by the Dutch Safety Board, said Mr Mansell was responsible for the loading of the plane but accused the firm’s management of paying “insufficient supervision” to flight safety.

The dead man’s father, Roger, condemned the company, based on the island of Curaçao, off the coast of Venezeula.

“The company put profit before lives and clearly, the only reason they overloaded was because, if they didn’t, they would have a lower payload and a lower net income,” he said.

“The report, in my view, hasn’t placed sufficient emphasis on this deliberate, dangerous and criminal activity by the company.

“Robert put the aircraft down in the water and that was quite a feat bearing in mind it was very heavy and he was struggling all the way down to stop it from dropping out of the sky like a stone. He did his very best.”

Legal action against the company is underway in Curaçao and an inquest into Mr Mansell’s death is expected to take place within the next six weeks.

The report said the plane was overloaded by nine per cent, which posed an “unacceptable risk” during the flight from Curaçao to Bonaire.

When the weight of the plane was reconstructed by investigators, it emerged the baggage weighed 231lbs instead of 93lbs as originally claimed.

The report said: “Although the pilot himself is responsible for the loading of the aircraft and completion of the load and balance sheet, the investigation has shown Divi Divi Air management paid insufficient supervision on the safety of the flight operation with its Britten-Norman Islanders planes. This resulted in insufficient attention to the risks of overloading.

“Moreover, it emerged that the safety equipment and instructions on-board the Britten-Norman Islanders of Divi Divi Air in use were not in order.

“Three passengers were not wearing a life jacket during the emergency landing and one passenger donned his life jacket back to front.”

The investigation also found the airline “systematically” went over the maximum take-off and landing weight, and audits were not carried out.
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