8 May 2007

Kenya: Govt Wants 'Black Box' Analysed in Canada

Nairobi — Kenya wants the flight data recorder recovered from a Kenya Airways plane that crashed in Cameroon to be analysed in Canada, Government spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua has said.

Dr Mutua said the US and European countries could not be viewed as neutral due to the competition between aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus.

"Canada, unlike Kenya, Cameroon and the United States (where Boeing manufacturers are located), is not an interested party. European nations would also not be viewed as neutral because of the competition between Boeing and Airbus," he said.

The preference of Canada, Mutua said, was also informed by the fact that the country uses both French and English as official languages.

"This is essential for communication between our English speaking investigators and Cameroon French speaking investigators," Mutua said.

Addressing the Press in Nairobi, Mutua said Kenya Airways CEO Mr Titus Naikuni would deliver the same message to committees on the ground in Cameroon.

No survivors found yet

He also said the voice recorder, which records all communication between the pilots in the cockpit and the control tower, had not yet been recovered.

The flight data recorder, commonly referred to as the 'black box', was recovered at the crash site on Monday.

The data recorder is located in the tail end of an aircraft while the voice recorder is located in the cockpit. The country in which a plane accident occurs retains the custody of the 'black box' and usually takes charge of investigations.

Kenya Airways chairman Mr Evanson Mwaniki said recovery efforts were still on but under very difficult circumstances. He said no survivors had been found yet.

Mwaniki said the airline would continue facilitating travel for next of kin to Douala, adding that 11 more family members would leave later Tuesday. The national carrier flew out eight more to Douala on Monday.

Flight KQ 507 went missing shortly after takeoff from Douala Airport on Saturday morning. The plane had originated from Abidjan in Ivory Coast and was expected to land in Nairobi at 6.15am.

Media reports inaccurate

The plane had stopped in Douala to pick up more passengers. Its wreckage was found in a mangrove swamp 20 kilometres south-east of Douala on Sunday.

The six-month-old Boeing 737-800 was carrying 114 people from at least 23 countries and is thought to have come down shortly after taking off in heavy rain.

Dr Mutua also criticised media reports that the pilot of the ill-fated plane issued a distress statement before the signal was lost.

"We have been informed by Cameroon's civil aviation Authority that the media reports are not accurate. According to the authority, the last communication with the tower by the Kenya Airways pilot was his response acknowledging a takeoff instruction from the tower," Mutua said.

He said the technical team, which includes Kenyan experts, was scrutinising the transcript of the communication between the tower and KQ 507. He urged the media to rely on official information to avoid "rumours".

A local daily on Tuesday reported that the pilot's last moments were captured by four chilling words: "We are in trouble".

The newspaper said Captain Francis Mbatia Wamwea's desperate plea was radioed to the control tower at Douala International Airport moments before the plane crashed into a dense forest. The report was attributed to Douala governor, Gounouko Hawonaye.

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