Erika Gibson, news24.com (SA), Apr. 11
Johannesburg — Who will accept responsibility for the death of a trainee Air Force pilot at the weekend?
This is what aviation experts asked on Sunday when it emerged that the trainee pilot who crashed his Astra training aircraft this weekend failed his exams on more than one occasion.
Oupa Jean-Claude Ramaiti, 24, from Pretoria died on Saturday afternoon outside Lichtenburg while on a navigational training flight.
It is not yet clear what happened, but Ramaiti’s body was found some distance from the wreckage, leading to speculation that he either activated the ejection seat too late or that it was activated by the impact.
Having failed the first time, Ramaiti was undergoing his flying course for a second time. Earlier, he failed his first solo control flight as well as his first instrument flight test.
Ramaiti was then offered a second chance, although it is understood that his instructors thought his performance was still not satisfactory.
“The irony is that Oupa was a nice guy whom everyone got along with well. He just did not have the necessary feel for flying,” a colleague said on Sunday.
“Now he is dead because someone thought he was one of those who had to help the air force’s transformation statistics look good.
“One cannot play with people’s lives for the sake of being politically correct.
“Everyone at the flying school new it was only a matter of time before a fatal accident was going to prove the point,” said the colleague.
Ramaiti was one of four trainee pilots from the air force’s Central Flying School at Langebaanweg who underwent navigation training out of Bloemfontein during the past week.
It was expected that they would all be awarded their wings as pilots in June this year. They only had to complete their formation-flight training.
Aviation experts cautioned last year already that quality and flight safety are not negotiable for the sake of representivity and transformation.
It also emerged that another repeat-failure trainee recently tried to land without lowering his plane’s wheels.
The aircraft was badly damaged, but the student was not injured.
It is understood that the students will again continue their flight training when the next intake of students commences theirs.
Following the incident, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota implied that racist instructors could be the real problem.
Air Force chief Carlo Gagiano recently said four or five instructors from the Zimbabwean air force will be helping train South African pilots soon.
It is understood that they will only be undergoing a short adjustment period since they have not previously flown the Pilatus Astra aircraft.
(Posted on April 12, 2005)
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