A video recording of the Air Niugini crash landing in Chuuk Lagoon last year played a crucial role in determining the cause of that accident, according to the final report issued Thursday by the Papua New Guinea Accident Investigation Commission.
At 9:24 a.m. Sept. 28, 2018, Air Niugini Flight 73 made a controlled descent into the water about 1,500 feet short of the Chuuk International Airport in Weno. The landing gear was deployed and tore off as the Boeing 737 came to a stop.
An aircraft maintenance engineer in the cockpit jump seat videotaped the final approach on his iPhone "for recreational purposes," the report states.
"The importance of the imagery obtained from the video ... cannot be understated. It provided clear pictures in real time of the cockpit environment and instruments."
'Not situationally aware'
What investigators observed in the video was a flight crew that "disregarded" and "did not acknowledge" alerts warning them that the plane was at a dangerously low altitude short of the runway.
"Both pilots were fixated on cues associated with control inputs for the landing approach," and "were not situationally aware and did not recognize the developing significant unsafe condition of an increasingly unstable final approach."
The report describes the failure of the pilots to respond to the warnings as "a symptom of fixation" and "channelized attention."
The pilot in command "did not carry out the required go-around at the Minimum Descent Altitude" and the co-pilot did not "take control of the aircraft from the flying pilot and restore a safe flight condition."
The harsh water landing seriously injured six passengers and caused the death of one other.
The autopsy was conducted by the FSM state pathologist, who concluded that the passenger was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the impact "which allowed his body to become a projectile sustaining traumatic head and facial injuries."
Since there was no evidence of drowning, the pathologist concluded that the passenger "died within the first 3 minutes of receiving the traumatic head injuries."
His body was recovered from the sunken plane three days after the accident.
Twelve crew members and 34 passengers were safely evacuated by local Chuukese fishermen and a U.S. Navy diving team that was doing survey work near the crash site.