Aviation Civile

Au Cameroun

Mbanga Pongo: Crash circumstances remain a mystery

Barely one month alter Boeing 737-800 of the Kenya Airways crashed in the Douala neighbourhood, the cause of the accident is yet to be discovered.

mbanga-pongo-siteThe name of this small, previously unknown village of Mbanga Pongo will forever remain indelible in the minds of many who lost loved ones in the Boeing 737 800 Kenya Airways, plane crash on May 5, 2007. As news filtered the streets of Douala and across the nation that the control tower had lost contact with Kenya airways flight number, KQA 507 on transit in Douala from Abidjan with Nairobi as final destination, many were apprehensive and astonished by the disturbing news. Some people, especially relatives and friends of those on board the flight, were hopeful that the plane would be found with some survivors.

After the announcement on Sunday May 7, 2007 on the state owned media, the Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), that the wreckage of the plane had been found with no survivors, many were utterly shocked and complewwwtely devastated. All 114 passengers on board including the crew members had unfortunately perished. Curiosity mounted and anxiety set in as journalists, started asking questions with regard to the circumstances of the accident. With no forthcoming immediate answers, they could not help but develop hypothesis and suppositions about the circumstances surrounding the accident, thus raising polemics. They blamed the Cameroon government for slow reaction and imprecision in search of the wreckage of the plane.

It took the resourceful intervention of the Minister of Communication Ebenezer Njoh Mouelle, assisted by the Deputy General Manager of the Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority (C.C.A.A) Moussa Habouba to swab all polemics with regard to who is to blame for the accident and whether or not the government intervened in time.

mbanga-pongo-blackTwo days after discovering the plane wreckage in Mbanga Pongo in the Littoral Province, the Minister of Communication in a press briefing on May 9, 2007 made it clear that the search for the missing plane was guided by information from the Satellite Research Centre in Toulouse-France. The government, he said mobilised and put in place ground and aerial search teams as well as foreign partners in a bid to find the plane soonest. The probable location point of the crash as stated in a telex from Toulouse corresponded to two points in Africa, one in South Africa and the other in the Nyong and So'o and the Ocean division. This information he added was not confirmed by Toulouse, meaning it was liable to some errors. It was also revealed during the press release that the delay in finding the plane may have been caused by the non-functionality of the Emergency Location Transmitter (E.L.T), after the plane crashed.

Later, in another press conference on Friday May 11, 2007at the conference room of the CCAA, the General Manager (G.M), Mr Sama Juma Ignatius assisted by his Inspector General Ngoué Célestin responded to some questions from the media. In response to the question "What is the probable cause of the accident?", the GM replied that it is too early to tell the exact cause. He added that, the role of the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) is amongst others to brief the pilots of enroute weather conditions, the ultimate takeoff decision, based on the information provided is left to the good and exclusive judgement of the pilot in command (PIC). Speaking during that press conference, the General Manager explained that no conclusion can be drawn until the two black boxes are found, analysed and interpreted by aviation experts. As at the time of the press conference, only the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) had been found. That which records conversation, the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), was yet to be found. Early in June 2007 the second black box-the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) was localized with the assistance of foreign aviation experts. Shortly after, on June 15, 2007 the Minister of Transport in a press release confirmed that the second black box had been found. As at now, measures have been taken to dispatch aviation experts from the CCAA along side the equipment for in-depth analysis at the Laboratory of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) in Ottawa - Canada.

An investigation Commission which was installed by the Minister of Transport on May 18, 2007 at the ASECNA representation in Douala is currently toiling to sort out the obscurity. In the mean time, access to the crash site in Mbanga Pongo remains prohibited to the public for security reasons. Sources from the Directorate of Safety and Facilitation (DSF) of the CCAA say badges have been conceived for all search operation teams and aviation experts.

It is hoped that the joint revelations from the, Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit voice recorders (CVR) will throw more light on the circumstances of the now mythic May 5, 2007 tragic plane crash in Mbanga Pongo.

Mireille Galabe

Communication Unit CCAA