Investigator confirms pilot did not have commercial license in Bahamas
The chief investigator of the Air Accident Investigation Department yesterday confirmed that the pilot of a six-seater aircraft that crashed in shallow waters near Mastic Point, Andros, killing all on board last Wednesday was not licensed to operate commercial flights nor did the pilot have the required ratings to operate the Piper aircraft in visually impairing weather conditions.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Registry, the pilot of the ill-fated flight, Darren Clarke, held a private pilot license.
Clarke was limited to “airplane multi-engine visual flight rules (VFR) only”.
This means that Clarke was restricted from operating a multi-engine aircraft in weather, which would have required him to rely on the instruments of the aircraft, confirmed Delvin Major, the investigator.
The aircraft is registered as a fixed wing multi-engine aircraft.
It was U.S. registered.
Major noted that the VFR limitation reflects that the pilot did not demonstrate instrument proficiency in a multi-engine aircraft.
When asked whether the conditions at the time of the flight last Wednesday would have required Clarke to rely on the instruments of the aircraft, Major said investigators had not yet determined this, but were seeking to as part of their investigation.
The U.S. registered aircraft departed San Andros Airport around 8 a.m. and crashed into waters approximately four miles off Mastic Point.
Clarke, 42; Margaret Adderley, 49, a mother of two; Valentino Cardinal Knowles, a father of two in his 30s; Carter Campbell, a father of one in his 50s; Desiree Russell and her daughter, Destinique Wilson, 10, were aboard the flight intended to land at New Providence.
According to Major, investigators were also investigating whether the passengers, all of whom perished, paid to be transported to New Providence.
A private pilot is not supposed to carry paying customers.
Although the cause of the crash has yet to be determined, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar has pledged stronger oversight of the aviation sector and to clamp down on air hackers.
The minister noted that in this particular incident, the aircraft was registered in the United States, which adds another level of complication to the aviation department’s checks and balances.
“It is my position that if you are not legally licensed to transport passengers for commercial gain, then you shouldn’t be in that business,” D’Aguilar said.
“The mere fact that you are using that word ‘hackers’ means there is a flagrant disregard for that rule, and we need to review how we police that.
“Every time that I bring up the issue of how are we policing it and why haven’t we been more forceful in ensuring that people have the right licenses to engage in the business that they are in, I’ve been told that there [hasn’t] been a political will.”
Additionally, Major said the department has been challenged to convince travelers to only use commercial carriers.
Since October 2016, there have been more than 30 incidents requiring investigation.
Major said the majority of these stem from private pilots from the United States traveling for leisure who appear to be unfamiliar with The Bahamas’ airports and runways, particularly in the Family Islands.