Costa Rican Grand Caravan crash raises 3 interesting inquiries

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Nature Air Crash

Costa Rica evaluates the causes of an air accident that left 12 dead


OIJ raid

 OIJ raids Civil Aviation and Nature Air


NTSB Assisting Costa Rica With Investigation Into Plane Crash That Killed Scarsdale Family

Investigators “RAID” DGCA offices

Criminal Powers being exercised

Questions for USOAP and IASA 

Nature Air liveriesA tragic accident at Corozalito, Guanacaste, Costa Rica, on New Year’s Eve usually does not attract much attention. The fact that ten U.S. citizens, and two Costa Rican Nature Air route mapcrew members, were involved and that a US certificated aircraft, Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, were involved provided a basis for NTSB, FAA and Cessna participation. Nature Air, the operator, is the country’s largest airline.

Cessna Grand Caravan 208B

A seemingly routine accident investigation (weather conditions at the time of the crash, possible mechanical failures and human error.[1]) poses three possible significant questions.


Interest was elevated by one of the reports of the accident investigation:

CR aviacion_civil3


The judicial and civil aviation agents Costa Rica evaluate causes of the plane crash in the North Pacific of the country in which 10 Americans and two Costa Rican crew died.

“It continues to work at the scene reviewing the wreckage to determine what caused the accident. Not clear whether it was mechanical or climate that is still under

investigation, “he said in statements to the media the deputy director of the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), Michael Soto.

A report from the AMERICAN EXPATRIATE COSTA RICA further piqued attention when it explained:

As part of the proceedings of the investigation on the plane crash that occurred on December 31st in 
Nandayure de Guanacaste, the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) searched the Directorate General of 
Civil Aviation (DGAC) and two dependencies of the company Nature Air, at the Juan Santamaría 
International Airport and at the Tobías Bolaños International Airport.
The proceedings, which began around 8:00 a.m. on Monday with 30 agents, were confirmed by Enio Cubillo, director of the DGAC; 

and by Walter Espinoza, director of the OIJ. They must review all the documentation related to the damaged aircraft: flight logs, 

maintenance logs, digital files, documentation and files of the two pilots, documents of the work schedules of the pilots and the 

availability to work the day of the events, as well as the maintenance plan of the aircraft.

OIJWhile one is familiar with organizations like the NTSB, AAIB (UK), BEA (FR), BFU (GER), TSBC (CAN) and others, not all countries have independent accident investigation organizations. The Costa Rican DGCA is authorized[2] to investigate any aviation accidents and incidents that occur within the country’s borders. It would appear that the DGCA should be investigating. Why the mention of the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) (Organismo de Investigación Judicial)?

OIJ was founded in 1973 as a subsidiary body of the Criminal Courts of Public Prosecutions in scientific discovery and verification of the crimes and their responsible. Its Organic Law stipulates that act on their own initiative, by denunciation or by order of competent authority in the investigation of crimes of public action in identifying and apprehension prevention of alleged offenders. It also aims to collect, secure and manage scientific evidence and other background needed for research. The investigative skills include:


Some or all of these expertises may be relevant to an accident investigation.

The NTSB frequently uses other federal agencies in its work, but those are cooperative relationships.


Question #1 If the OIJ “raided” or even the milder term “searched the offices of the DGCA” then this does not sound like a cooperative relationship?


The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), the Royal Aeronautical Society in England (RAeS), the Academie Nationale de L’Air et de L’Espace (ANAE) in France, the European Regions Airline Association; the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations; the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association; and the International Society of Aviation Safety Investigators, and  US Airline Pilots Association all major independent aviation organizations have strongly opposed  law enforcement and judicial authorities criminalizing aviation accidents investigations. ICAO ,based on  the fact that criminalization has been shown to be detrimental of aviation safety, has been petitioned to establish a global policy against use of criminal authority in analyzing the causes or persons responsible for crashes.

Question #2 Does OIJ’s involvement include criminal powers?


ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) [1999 audit] and the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program have both reviewed the DGCA of Costa Rica. Both found it meeting global standards. The ICAO chart indicates that the competence exceeds many other countries:


Question #3 The FAA and ICAO should carefully examine the records of this examination to determine whether the existing ratings are justified.

[1] “Remains of the plane’s turbine will be sent to producer Pratt & Whitney in Canada for mechanical evaluations.

A video obtained from the civil aviation agency showed twisted and charred chunks of metal that are being examined by investigators, including pieces of the turbine, tail rudder and wings.

The plane had passed a safety inspection about a month ago and was authorized to fly, Cubillo has previously said. Although strong winds in the morning had forced the pilots to alter their itinerary, they had flown safely to Punta Islita to pick up passengers headed to San Jose.

Cubillo added on Thursday that strong winds at the time of the crash should not have impacted the flight.

“There were winds of some 20, 25 knots … a speed that isn’t ideal, but that should be perfectly withstood by an aircraft of this wingspan,” he said.”


[2] MARCO ESTRATÉGICO DEL SECTOR AÉREO.” Civil Aviation Direction General. Retrieved on April 18, 2012. “Accidentes e Incidentes Investigar los accidentes e incidentes aéreos, mediante el análisis del factor humano, mecánico y medio ambiente, para determinar las causas que los provocaron, con el fin de fomentar la seguridad aérea por medio de la aplicación de las recomendaciones de carácter preventivo”


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2 Comments on "Costa Rican Grand Caravan crash raises 3 interesting inquiries"

  1. Costa Rica civil aviation authority suspends Nature Air’s AOC–

  2. More details about the CR DGAC and Nature Air–

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