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Authorities investigating rise in aviation incidents over past year

Accident site near Kuusiku airfield last September.
Accident site near Kuusiku airfield last September. Source: OJK

A surge in aviation accidents in the past year has prompted authorities to make further risk assessments and investigations into causes.

Karl-Eerik Unt, accident researcher at the Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau (OJK), said that the process of getting an overview was in motion, in the wake of a European Commission obligation on supervisors to assess risk

Unt said: "We wanted to know how the Transport Agency (Transpordiamet) has assessed the situation in the past, and assessed the risks after these accidents, plus what measures have already been taken, and what are planned in the future. This might give the casual observer a glimpse of whether what had been done is sufficient or not."

OJK director Rene Arikas has sent a letter to the Transport Authority, obliged to supervise aviation and its safety in Estonia, further inquiring as to how the risks might be assessed, and what measures could be used to prevent such incidents recurring.

One major area is home-built micro-light-type aircraft.

Unt said: "Anyone can build or buy a motor vehicle themselves and go ahead. This is not a question of getting caught. We might refer to it as a cultural issue. These vehicles are not registered, and operators do not take on piloting competencies, since the likelihood of getting caught is very low."

"Individuals consider risks to themselves and others to be sufficiently slight, and so do not follow what the aviation law prescribes for them," Unt added.

The surge in accidents included: "Not only micro-lights, but also a number of other smaller and general aviation incidents which have increased, and we would like to ascertain the reasons for this," Unt went on.

In the past year, the OJK assessed six incidents - two involving micro-lights and one involving a helicopter, along with an glider-related incident, and two involving light aircraft – a PA46R-350T and a Cessna 172M.

The two micro-light incidents were particularly noteworthy in that in both cases the vehicle was unregistered, and the pilot did not have a license.

Unt noted by analogy that this would equate to a road user without a drivers' license behind the wheel of an unregistered vehicle.

The two micro-light crashes took place on April 24 last year, at Riidaja airfield in Valga County, and on September 27, at the Kuusiku airfield, Rapla County, involving an "Aeros" model (see cover image, and also the accident report in English here).

While there were no fatalities reported in either incident, both caused injury to one person each, and both were the result of pilot error on the part inexperienced pilots (who had 30 minutes' and one hour's flight time in the respective micro-lights).

In August 2017, a self-built micro-light crash led to the deaths of two people.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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