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Kenya 737 crash probe highlights disparity between pilots

Pairing of a dominant captain and a reserved first officer on the crashed Kenya Airways Boeing 737-800 in Cameroon appears to have contributed to their poor co-ordination and failure to correct the aircraft's fatal trajectory.

The 52-year old captain had 8,682hr of which 824hr were on the 737-700/800, says the Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority in its final technical report into the crash outside Douala.

Progress reports during captaincy training mentioned his satisfactory aircraft handling but described an "overbearing tendency" towards colleagues, a "touch of arrogance" and "insufficient flight discipline".

Since his securing captaincy on the 737, it adds, Kenya Airways instructors had mentioned "several recurrent shortcomings" in areas such as respect for standard operating procedures, crew resource management and cockpit scanning - although remedial recommendations had been made in each case.

The CCAA says that Kenya Airways' oversight was "not aggressive enough" with regard to dealing with "weak pilots".

In contrast to the captain's experience, the first officer, aged 23, had accumulated 831hr with 170hr on the 737-700/800.

His line training had similarly shown up a need to monitor closely the flight and highlight any deviation from the flying pilot.

The captain had an "authoritative and domineering" character, says the CCAA, and he took a "paternalistic attitude" towards the first officer, who was "reserved" and "not assertive".

Assessment of the fatal 737 flight, KQ507 to Nairobi on 5 May 2007, revealed evidence that shortcomings identified in training showed up during the accident sequence.

The captain "hardly associated" the first officer in decision-making, says the CCAA, while the first officer appeared "subdued by the strong personality of his captain" and failed to call out "clearly visible and important lapses of piloting", seeming instead to "completely place his confidence with the captain".

Kenya Airways' management, it adds, should have "taken the necessary measures to avoid pairing up this type of crew".

All 114 passengers and crew members on board KQ507 were killed after the pilots failed to recognise a steadily-increasing bank after take-off, resulting in the 737's entering a spiral dive from which it did not recover.

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