New report blames Tanzania’s Precision Air crash on pilot error

Friday March 24 2023
Precision Air flight PW494

Precision Air flight PW494 which crashed into Lake Victoria. A new government report is blaming the crash on pilot error. PHOTO | FILE | SITIDE PROTASE | AFP


A new government report is blaming the pilot of Precision Air for the crash last year in November in which 19 people died in Lake Victoria near Bukoba in Tanzania.

According to the Tanzania government report released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Works and Transport, prevailing poor weather led to the pilots failing to heed warning signals that were issued, despite the aircraft's steering equipment all being in proper working order. 

The ATR 42-500 turboprop plane, travelling from Dar es Salaam to the lakeside town of Bukoba with 39 passengers, two pilots and two crew members on board, crashed into the lake about 500 metres from the Bukoba airport runway as it attempted to land in heavy rain on November 6, 2022.

Read: Precision Air crash: Pilot's wife speaks

There were 24 survivors in what was termed Tanzania's worst aviation accident in decades. The pilot, Captain Buruhani Rubaga, and co-pilot Peter Omondi Odhiambo were among those who died.

Widespread criticism


The tragedy led to widespread criticism of lack of official preparedness for such disasters in Tanzania, with a preliminary crash report issued by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), a state agency, highlighting inexplicable delays by local authorities in mounting the official rescue operation.

Local fishermen were the first responders, using crude ropes to try to pull the sunken plane out of the lake before marine police arrived about two hours later with proper rescue equipment.

Read: France joins Precision Air plane crash probe

The AAIB report was later disowned by Works and Transport Minister Makame Mbarawa who said it “did not come from authoritative government channels.”

Circumstances of the crash

The latest government report on the accident did not mention the rescue mission at all but focused instead on the circumstances surrounding the crash.

"Poor weather around the airport affected the pilots' ability to perform their duty, thereby causing them to be negligent in following cautionary indicators that they were given," the report said.

Read: Kenyans among 19 killed in Precision Air crash

It said the plane plunged into the lake head-on and at speed, its left wing clipping the water surface ahead of the rest of its body.

“All the equipment for handling the plane was working to the pilots' specifications,” the report stated.

A third and final report on the accident is due by November this year at the conclusion of a deeper investigation being conducted jointly by aviation experts representing the Tanzanian government, privately-owned Precision Air, and the aircraft's manufacturers in France.