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Four British tourists dead in Peru crash

The danger posed by small tour aircraft were highlighted again by the tragic accident in Peru where four British tourists along with the pilot and co-pilot were killed attempting an emergency landing.

The Nazca Lines in Peru draw people from across the world to view the incredible sights and the almost incomprehensible human achievement from the pre Inca era.

The popularity of this most magnificent sight means that small tour operators offering flight in very small aircraft have sprung up across the region to compete for the ‘tourist dollar’. Sadly where such competition exists, some operators will inevitably cut corners to deliver higher profits and cutting corners with aircraft safety is a recipe for disaster.

There have been a number of similar tragic incidents with light aircraft serving tourists visiting the Nazca Lines; 02-2010 seven South Americans died; 04-2008 five French tourists died; 1989 ten people died when an air taxi crashed into the side of a building in Lima. In this latest case we must await the outcome of the investigation before drawing conclusions, but that should not stop others from learning from this tragedy.

When using any form of transport in any part of the world travellers must be self-reliant, they must decide what is safe and not rely on the word of a salesperson, a driver, a pilot or a tour guide. If there is any little voice in the back of your head telling you something is not right, listen to it.

Too many travellers adopt an attitude of acceptance that in less wealthy countries ‘that’s just the way it is’.

This is just not the case; yes certain standards fall below what we might expect in the UK, but that should mean we are more cautious about those decisions which are within our power to make, rather than less.

Never be afraid to ask questions, if people refuse to answer or take offence, never be afraid to take your ‘tourist dollar’ elsewhere.

If you go to Peru and are looking to take a similar flight ask; when the last time the plane was serviced and by who; ask the pilot about their experience; ask about the weather forecast; ask about the companies safety record (not just accidents but near misses as well); ask the company themselves and ask locals about reputations.

As with many things in life the cheapest is not necessarily the best.

Make sure you don’t agree to pay anything until you have spoken with the flight company themselves; local tour operators will often have no link with the actual company operating the flights and simply recommend the one which offers them the highest commission; the company offering the highest commission may have to cut other corners to offer such good commissions…

Finally have a look at the aircraft you will be flying in, you may not be a aeronautical engineer but everyone can make some assessment about the general condition of an aircraft; how old does it look; does it look like it is regularly maintained; do the tyres have tread; is there any damage to the fuselage suggesting previous near misses; any sign of corrosion; are the seats in good order (tatty seats will be an indication of the age as much as anything); are the seatbelts secure; do they give you a comprehensive safety talk prior to take-off?

If you are not happy walk away, even if you have already paid; the Nazca Lines have been there for two thousand years, they’ll be there for another day.

The foreign office advice for those considering flights over the Nazca Lines is:

  • Flights must have a co-pilot
  • Aircraft must be no more than 15 years old
  • Aircraft should be able to accommodate  a minimum of 15 passengers and 2 crew

 

At Safe Gap Year our Independent Travel Safety and Cultural Awareness Workshop considers issues of Travel Safety, alongside sessions on Cultural Awareness, Travel Health, Ethical and Responsible Travel, Travel Equipment, Destination Advice, Transport Options, Documentation, Travel Money and Insurance and more.

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Source – Daily Telegraph 

Date – 4th October 2010

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew