Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Associated Airline Crash: Oduah, DGs Evade Questions on Aircraft Worthiness

After two months, the Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, yesterday appeared before the Senate Committee on Aviation to brief the committee on all she knew about the October 3 Associated Airline plane crash in Lagos.

Oduah, who led other heads of aviation parastatals to the meeting, presented a video clip of how the pilot turned deaf ears to appeals from his co-pilot to shelve the flight as a result of obvious fault in the aircraft.

According to her, the sector had presented a preliminary report of investigation into the crash barely a week after the incident occurred. At the meeting were Director General (DG) of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Captain Shuaib Usman;  DG, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency  (NAMA), Nnamdi Udoh; DG, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Eniola Akinkuotu; DG, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), George Uriesi;  Rector, Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and DG, Nigeria Metereological Agency (NIMET), Anthony Anuforom.

In the video clip, which showed the conversation of the captain with other members of the crew, some of the voices heard were saying: “It is not climbing, it is not climbing;” “Oh! We are in trouble,” “Don’t stall, don’t stall;” “Jesus, Jesus!”

The clip clearly established that the aircraft was faulty before take–off and yet the pilot ignored several pleas from his co-pilot not to take off.

Upon take-off, the aircraft lost control in the sky as it swerved to the right instead of following the proper direction before eventually crashing.

Oduah said the conversation was retrieved from the black box.
The panel was told that the state of the aircraft showed that there were problems with “configuration take-off” as well as engine of the aircraft, which were said to be enough warnings for flight to have been cancelled.

But when asked who authorized the aircraft to fly, Usman, who had been authorized by Oduah to respond to the question, said investigation into the crash had not been completed, promising that when the full report into the incident was finally presented, it would reflect every information required to be known.

The DG, who also said the engine of the aircraft was not producing effectively, added that it had been taken for further analysis outside the country.

When asked why the control tower did not intervene when it was obvious the aircraft could not fly, he stated that nobody could force the crew from flying if it chose not to obey the order asking it to come back.

Another issue of contention was the age of the pilot who was said to be 64.
But Akinkuotu said no rule had been broken by the pilot’s age, disclosing that aviation rules allow pilots to fly up to the age of 65.

While describing the pilot as irresponsible by insisting to go ahead with the flight despite enough warning signals, he noted that the co-pilot should have insisted that the pilot should not take off instead of falling into the pilot’s trap when he knew that tragedy was imminent.

Also, Oduah evaded attempts by journalists to ask her questions on the N255 million armored car scandal as well as other emerging issues in the sector as she forced her way out of the scene and left.

Oduah also told the panel that she inherited rots in all Nigerian airports, adding that as a result of the need to prevent accidents in the sector, she decided to rename AIB as Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau (AIPB).

But the Chairman of the committee, Senator Hope Uzodimma, asked her to jettison the idea, saying AIB was a creation of the law and hence, the law must be amended before any change can be effected.

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Associated Aviation, Embraer EMB-120, 5N-BJY, charter flight SCD-361

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