Caaz grounds small aircrafts

Caaz director general Elijah Chingosho said Caaz was going to issue a report on the plane crash that killed the RioZim owner.

THE Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) has tightened regulations on small aircraft operations in the country following the recent fatal accident, which killed RioZim owner Harpal Randhawa, and his son Amer.

Six people died when the private aircraft  crashed near a diamond mine in the southwestern region of Zimbabwe.

Reports indicate that the privately-owned plane crashed due to a “technical fault”, which caused a mid-air explosion.

Since the accident, Caaz has tightened screws on small aircraft. It is targeting non-compliant small planes to ensure that there are no more accidents.

Information obtained by the Zimbabwe Independent showed that several small aircraft were grounded temporarily, while Caaz checks whether they are fit to fly.

A safety inquest spearheaded by Caaz is ongoing.

“Every small aircraft scheduled for the operation would have a Caaz safety representative there to ensure safety,” the source said.

“Most small aircraft have had their businesses crippled following the recent Caaz clampdown. Most small aircrafts doing charter business have been subject to serious scrutiny on issues of safety.”

Caaz director general Elijah Chingosho said Caaz was going to issue a report on the plane crash that killed the RioZim owner.

“So, adequate safety measures are always in place and complied with in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS),” Chingosho said.

“The Accidents Investigation Unit will publish a report for aviation with its findings and their recommendations will be implemented.”

Of late, there has been an increase in the number of small aircraft involved in accidents.

In the case of the plane crash that killed Randhawa and five others, sources at the mining company said preliminary investigations pointed to mechanical failure, but police said they were still investigating.

RioZim Limited controls 100% shareholding in Murowa Diamonds.

Sources said RioZim Aviation, the firm that manages RioZim’s aviation operations, sacked all its pilots in December last year and hired private pilots to fly gems. This was before a plane crash near Beatrice earlier this year.

RioZim Aviation operates a fleet of planes consisting of a Beechcraft Kingair 200, a Piper PA-31 Navajo and a Cessna 206.

A Piper PA-31 Navajo plane, which was flying diamonds to Harare, in February made an emergency landing in a field, injuring five people on board.

These included Murowa Diamonds security officer Salfina Karimazondo and Obey Mabvundwi, a constable with the Criminal Investigations Department, along with guards from Fawcett Security.

“There is a mass exodus of employees at RioZim,” one of the sources said in February when the accident happened.

 “The aviation department has been the most affected. This saw the company outsourcing aviation services.”

Another Air Force of Zimbabwe AFZ SF260 aircraft crashed also in February in Gweru while conducting routine training, killing two personnel.

The aircraft crashed into a power line, resulting in the deaths of Wing Commander Daniel Manyenga and Group Captain Ben Munyanduki.

The accidents came in the wake of other accidents.

In June 2021, a crew of AFZ pilots averted a major accident by undertaking an emergency landing of their Mig-23 gunship helicopter after it had reportedly developed a technical fault. No casualties were recorded.

During the same year in April, four people died, including two pilots and an engineer after an AFZ Augusta Bell 412 (AB412) crashed in Mashonaland East.

In 2020, an AFZ aircraft SF260 Genet trainer was involved in an accident, which claimed the lives of an instructor and trainee pilot on board.

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