(From Saturday Punch)
Over one week after the air mishap involving an Associated Airline plane on October 3, 2013, Nigerians have been treated to a bouquet of conflicting reports on the cause.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority had in the wake of the accident, insinuated that the cause of the crash couldn’t have been related to a technical fault. The regulatory agency, possibly in an attempt to absolve itself of any blame, declared that the plane was fit to fly as at the day the crash happened.
It claimed that Associated Aviation Limited held a subsisting Air Operators Certificate and currently conducts only charter operations. NCAA’s Director, Consumer Protection, Adamu Abdullahi, had last Friday ascertained that the airline possessed an air operators’ certificate, an air worthiness certificate, valid till October 22 this year, and an insurance policy valid until June next year.
He said, “The aircraft had a current Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A) till October 22, 2013. Our records also show that the airline has an insurance policy valid until June 14, 2014. “Before the ill-fated flight, the airline last operated the EMB 120ER 5N-BJY aircraft on a charter flight on August 22, 2013. “The aircraft was certified fit for flight by one of the airline’s aircraft maintenance engineers prior to departure, who was also on board the ill-fated flight.”
Four days after the crash when Nigerians were still grappling with NCAA’s position and families of the dead trying to come to terms with the sudden demise of their loved ones, the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, came up with another position.
She said that air accidents were inevitable and an act of God. While fielding questions from journalists in Abuja on investigations into the crash, she said that notwithstanding the reality, the Federal Government would continue to ensure there were no accidents.
She said, “We do not pray for accidents but they are inevitable. But we will continue to do everything to ensure that we do not have accidents. But an accident is an act of God.” She then told newsmen that the preliminary report on the Associated Airline crash would be ready in a couple of weeks.
“The preliminary report should be out in a couple of weeks. The experts are coming from France and the manufacturer of the aircraft. We must have them regardless of how we want to accelerate the investigation. “We are waiting for them to come so that we can open the engine and find out exactly from them what went wrong. And you cannot do any of those without their presence. If you do that, then you have contaminated the investigation; so we must wait for them.”
But exactly one week after the crash, contrary to the views of the minister and the NCAA, the Accident Investigation Bureau’s preliminary report declared the crashed Associated Airlines plane technically unfit as at October 3. The report revealed that the aircraft’s flaps and right engine were not technically fit before take-off. The bureau said the crew, prior to departure, expressed some concerns about the plane.
He said despite the concerns, the crew still flew the aircraft, which was conveying the corpse of the former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu. The plane eventually crashed and killed over 15 persons. Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer, AIB, Capt. Muhtar Usman, who spoke at the headquarters of the bureau in Abuja on Friday, said, “The Flight Data Recorder contains several engine related parameters which the AIB is studying. “At this point, we can state that the right engine appears to be producing considerable less thrust than the left engine.
“A warning configuration setting suggests that the flaps were not in the correct position for take-off and there is some evidence that the crew may have chosen not to use the flaps for take-off.”
… Trends in defiant pilots
There have been reports indicting pilots and suggesting that some of them may be taking to defiance to instructions from the control tower.
In a live programme monitored by our correspondent on television on Monday, Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer, AIB, Capt. Muhtar Usman, said the bureau was investigating some cases involving pilots who had defied control tower guidance. He said that most of the time, such pilots behaved that way when they have public officers or prominent people aboard. He said that while some of such attitudes thankfully do not result in crashes, they sometime could be very costly as it involved human lives.
Meanwhile, Saturday PUNCH found that the AIB’s report brings to two, cases of pilot’s disobedience this month alone. The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria last Saturday (October 5), confirmed that a plane with 512 passengers on board crash-landed in the country’s northern city of Sokoto, damaging airport equipment and ending with burst tyres.
FAAN said in a statement that the plane, a Boeing 747-300 with Reg 5N-JRM which was operated by Kabo Airlines “damaged some Instruments Landing System and came to a stop with deflated tyres. The agency said the pilot disobeyed instructions from the control tower and the incident is still being investigated.
”Preliminary reports indicate that the control tower gave the pilot clearance to land on Runway 08 but the captain opted to use Runway 26, for reasons yet to be ascertained,” said Yakubu Dati, FAAN’s spokesperson. He said that all the 494 passengers and 18 crew members were safe after landing, officials said, adding that the incident took place at 9 pm on Friday.”
The aircraft which departed from Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano was en route Saudi Arabia when it had a stop-over at the Sokoto Airport for passenger pick-up,” Dati said. Governor Saidu Dakingari of Kebbi, his wife, Zainab, and 48 intending pilgrims from Kebbi were said to be among those on board the aircraft.