Mango nosedive caused by motor failure - report

The South African Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed that it is investigating the origin of a horizontal stabilizer trim motor, which appeared to fail during a Mango flight last month. The motor helps with slight adjustments to keep the aircraft stabilised. 

This comes amid claims by SAA, which owns Mango, that it has been infiltrated by a criminal 'enterprise with transnational networks' which, according to a Sunday Times report, may have supplied dodgy parts to the airline as part of suspect tenders.

The SACAA, which regulates civil aviation safety and security, told Fin24 that a preliminary report into the incident on a Mango Boeing 737-800 travelling from OR Tambo International Airport to Cape Town International Airport on September 2nd has been finalised.

Near Kimberley, the pilot reported a nosedive motion after the autopilot on the aircraft was disengaged.

This suggested to the crew that a significant 'out of trim' situation had developed. This means that the the plane cannot maintain straight flight without the pilot intervening. The crew stated that the aircraft was controllable, but the electrical horizontal stabilizer trim did not work, the report found.

"The SACAA investigation is on-going and we will be looking into the history of the horizontal stabilizer trim motor and other aspects which may have contributed to the failure of the motor, which may or may not have safety implications," the preliminary report said.

Investigations are still ongoing, as the preliminary report – which must be released within 30 days of an incident, according to regulation – does not serve to apportion blame for an incident when it occurs. The final report only have to be released within 12 months of the incident.

"We commend the flight crew, and air traffic controllers for prioritising safety and ensuring that the aircraft was eventually landed safely and without any casualties. That is their duty and what is expected of them. If there is any room for improvement, the final report will indicate so," SACAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba told Fin24.

Ledwaba said only the final report would pronounce, with authority, the cause of a particular incident or accident, whilst outlining a list of safety recommendations to avoid any recurrence. 

According to the authority, the Accident and Incident Investigation Division was informed of the aircraft, 

Ledwaba said the authority would never allow any unsafe aircraft to take to the skies, nor would it allow any licence holder to touch any aircraft if evidence indicated that there was non-compliance with the aircraft which could jeopardise safety.

"Neither will we take hasty and indiscreet decisions on on-going investigations of incidences that have not yet been thoroughly interrogated," Ledwaba said.  

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