Photo: Ariel Cecilio Lemus Alvarez

Following the plane crash in Havana on May 18, a commission was created to investigate the incident. Granma spoke with authorities at the Civil Aviation Institute of Cuba (IACC) to learn about the protocols the country follows when faced with this type of accident.

Cuba is a founding member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), established in 1944, which regulates and manages issues concerning air navigation.

This body stipulates different regulations, among which is Annex 13 to the International Civil Aviation Convention, which establishes the responsibilities and protocols for international aircraft accident investigations, such as that which occurred in Havana. However, each country has its own specific adaptation of these recommended practices, known in Cuba as the Cuban Aviation Regulations (RAC 13), explained IACC President, Armando L. Daniel López, in charge of the investigation.

RAC 13 contains the current standards in the field of aviation accident and incident investigation, as well as norms to be applied in terms of information gathering, and the selection, requirements, guidelines, functions, and obligations of personnel responsible for the investigation.

The protocol establishes that when an accident occurs, a commission is formed in which the IACC, as the aviation authority, has the largest number of representatives, and in which the Cuban Aviation Corporation (CACSA), the airline concerned, and as many specialists as necessary, also participate, Daniel López explained.

Regarding the ongoing investigation into the Boeing 737-200 crash, the IACC president informed that at this time, two Mexican and three U.S. representatives of the state where the aircraft and its operator were registered, and the state where the aircraft was manufactured and designed, respectively, are working with the commission.

This is in line with one of the articles of Cuba’s resolution on the investigation of aviation incidents and accidents, which stipulates that the state of design or manufacture of the aircraft may appoint one or more consultants, proposed by the organizations responsible for the model design and final assembly of the aircraft, to assist its accredited representatives.

As this is a complex and specific process, it requires that responsible investigation commissions are able to consider a large number of factors, in order to interrelate and analyze these, and establish the causes that gave rise to the events.

According to RAC 13, “accident investigation is among the activities carried out in the framework of operational safety management, such that the quality of investigations into aviation incidents and accidents that occur in the national territory with Cuban and/or foreign aircraft, as well as events of this type abroad where Cuban aircraft are involved, is a matter of national importance.”

The sole objective of the investigation is to prevent future incidents or any events associated with these occurrence categories, and not to determine guilt or responsibility, the document reads.

The investigation has three main stages: notification, investigation, and information, explained Adys Sánchez Agüero, head of the IACC Legal Advisory Department.

In the case of the first, RAC 13 provides that the Cuban state, faced with the occurrence of accidents or serious incidents in the national territory involving aircraft of another contracting state, has the responsibility to send a notification as soon as possible, and by the most appropriate means available, to the states of registry, operator, design and manufacture.

The investigation process includes the gathering and analysis of information, the obtaining of conclusions, including the determination of causes and contributing factors and, where appropriate, the formulation of operational safety recommendations.

The IACC president noted that at this stage, the conservation of evidence is paramount, including effective safekeeping of the aircraft and its contents, during the period of time necessary to carry out the investigation.

Such protection includes the preservation, through photographic procedures or other means, of any evidence that could be moved, erased, lost, or destroyed.

As part of this process, it is necessary to perform tests and undertake inspections on different components of the aircraft, and analyze documentation and the data from both black boxes. However, while these provide important information, their absence does not make it impossible to carry out the investigation, stressed Daniel López.

This is due, he added, to the fact that even though they suffer heat or impact damage, some parts of the aircraft, mainly mechanical parts, are preserved, with which important details are discovered during the investigation process.

Based on this, specialists begin the investigation work on each of the systems in secure airport institutions, he noted.

In the chapter on the final information regarding an investigation, the latest edition of RAC 13 establishes that the commission investigating an accident or incident will make the final report available to the public as soon as possible.