Causes Of Plane Crashes In Nigeria
Crashes in America, Europe and Asia with the same tenacity that they do in Nigeria and Africa.
In my collations, two factors have been identified as the major cause of air crash in the continent. One is inefficient regulation and the tendency of airlines to cut corners.
In Nigeria after passing the 2006 Civil Aviation Act, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) acquired the needed autonomy to effectively regulate the operations of airlines and ensure that they adhered strictly to the rules.
From 2007 till this latest air crash, Nigeria did not record any major accident for five years, except for the charter aircraft, Beechcraft 1900D, which disappeared on March 15, 2008 on its way from Lagos to Bebi airstrip. It crashed and was found six months later with the carcass of the three persons on board.
Although the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) is yet to investigate the cause of the Dana Air crash, but Nigerians already know that the failure to abide by the maintenance schedule of the aircraft may have contributed to its crash.
There is a callous culture that has prevailed a long time in the aviation industry. This culture is the attitude of the airline owners to go against the crucial and technical advice of their engineers. Before the revelations of a crew member of Dana Air who said on television that against the wishes of the airport manager of the airline in Abuja, the aircraft was ordered to operate by the management, this fact is well known in the industry.
Defying the Rules
It could be recalled that some years ago an owner of aircraft charter company physically fought with his engineer who refused to certify an aircraft to airlift a one-time governor of Enugu state because the aircraft was not air worthy. The aircraft owner physically beat the engineer and almost killed him before he was rescued. That engineer, for that single act, was later employed by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Similar stories trailed many of the aircraft that crashed in Nigeria, whereby a pilot would severely complain about snags in aircraft and the airline owner would persuade him to just manage and operate it for one flight. And that one flight was the last for some of these aircraft.
That explained why the black box of one of the aircraft that crashed few years ago disappeared few hours after it was found. Till today that black box is still missing because if it was made available it would have revealed what the pilot said before the crash and perhaps the pilot would have recalled the altercations between him and the airline owners before he air lifted the aircraft.
Compromising Safety Checks
One of the operators who has managed a major airline for over eight years told news men Tuesday that to save money and also not to put away an aircraft for a long time, many airlines cut back on maintenance checks and with the consent of some officials of the regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) extends it or just carry out below the level checks.
“When you go out for C check which is complete overhaul of the aircraft some of us carry out superficial checks when we should carry out comprehensive checks in order to save money. I am telling you that if every airline follows the stipulated maintenance conditions many of us will be making any profit. NCAA knows what is happening and I have to tell you that some of us carry out these checks to protect our aircraft and save lives of our passengers, but there are others who do not because the pressure is too much.”
There is the pressure of cost, the pressure of making the aircraft available for service in order to generate money and manage airline operations, the source pointed out.
The source said that in investigating the cause of the Dana Air accident that government should find out the last time the airline went for C check. Considering the fact that it is an old aircraft, there is no reason the airline should compromise on maintenance checks on the aircraft.
“Some airlines do not go for C check while others keep on extending; some instead of C check will do B check and have an extension for three months. Investigation should also reveal the details of the check that has been carried out. This is where revelations will come out.”
The source also said that while the regulatory body was harsh on some airlines, it was lenient on others and that explained why when some airlines were involved in crash they were still allowed to operate and when they did not have the capability to continue to carry out services, including international operations they were still allowed to do so.
“When you don’t have money to efficiently provide airline services how can you have money to carry out proper maintenance check? When the regulatory body compromises on some airlines, those who are doing the right thing will feel that they are fools. If proper investigation is carried out on this Dana Air crash you will understand what I am saying. We spent too much time celebrating our good fortunes.
The source said that although NCAA has got the 2006 Civil Aviation Act, which empowers it to strictly enforce compliance, the Authority “does not seem to do this effectively because in this kind of job you ought not to have a brother or friend. No brother in the jungle as they say, but we have paid dearly for this.”
Besides the issues of bad weather and pilot error, the factors that gave rise to the past air Crashes also gave rise to the Dana Air crash, considering the present revelation. And these factors have been prevalent in Nigerian aviation for a long time. These are inefficient regulation, corner cutting by airlines and poor training of core aviation personnel.
Crashes that killed about 300 passengers and documents made available to the medium by the Federal Aviation Administration of the US revealed that the aforementioned factors were also partly responsible for the accidents.
Bellview Airlines Boeing 737-200 aircraft crashed at Lisa, Ogun state on October 22, 2005 and killed 117 people; Sosoliso Airlines DC-9-30 aircraft crashed in Port Harcourt, Rivers state on December 10, killing 108 and ADC Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft crashed in Abuja on October 29, 2006 and killed 96 people.
The report alleged that the Nigeria's government long has declined to release formal records surrounding three fatal Crashes in 2005-2006, including the one that killed scores of children.
The report said that though NCAA officials now say air travel is much safer, the documents add to worries about flights in Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people where graft and incompetence often dominate government and where the demand for air travel has spiked over the last five years.
According to the report, on the Oct. 22, 2005 crash of a Bellview Airlines flight that killed 177 people, including a U.S. citizen, showed the Plane nose-dived into the ground at high speed. Investigators reportedly found only human remains that were "nothing bigger than toes and fingers," the report read.
The plane's captain, a 49-year-old former pilot, had been allegedly hired by Bellview after he had been working at a dairy for about 14 years, the summary read. The pilot also had been "shot in the head during a robbery attempt" during that break from flying, the report said.
"Interestingly, the Nigerian ... medical records do not contain any medical or hospitalization history of this event," the report read. The unnamed author of the report wrote that investigators would follow up on that detail, though no other documents released by the FAA refer to it again.
The report quoted Harold Demuren, Director General of Nigeria's aviation authority, to have said that officials have worked to ensure safety regulations were followed.
"Nigeria had a really woeful accident records and those were the results," Demuren said. "However, you must add to it that things have improved tremendously since then."
The report also said that Nigerian officials have offered conflicting reasons for the three major Crashes in 2005-2006, never releasing full reports on what happened.
The Dec. 10, 2005 crash of a Sosoliso Airlines flight full of schoolchildren from Abuja to Port Harcourt, which killed 107 people, appears to have involved both pilot error and weather.
The pilot was "reportedly racing a thunderstorm" nearing the airport, an FAA memo reads. The inclement weather also forced the pilot to make an instrument landing - meaning that visibility had been reduced to the point the pilot needed to rely on instruments to make his landing, the report read.
The Plane crash landed on the grass alongside the runway broke apart and caught fire.
The third major crash - an Oct. 29, 2006 Aviation Development Co. flight from Abuja to Sokoto - killed 96 people, including the top spiritual leader for the nation's Muslims. The Plane crashed 76 seconds after going airborne.
Just before the crash, alarms began sounding in the cockpit and the pilots' incorrect actions stalled the plane, according to the report.
"Although bad weather may have created the situation, which the pilots reacted to, they reacted inappropriately," the report reads.
Even more disturbing for investigators was the airline's operation manual for pilots and cockpit staff, which "did not contain any information on adverse weather condition as that section was blank."
The manual was duly approved by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority despite containing the blank section.
"The deficiency in the operation manual would probably make it difficult for pilots to take appropriate decision on when to go or not to go in (an) adverse weather condition," the report said.
The report also alleged that a 2009 study done for the World Bank concluded the aviation authority spends more than 90 percent of its budget on salaries and cannot fund training or equipment needs.
The authority "is still struggling to enforce quality, safety, and security standards on federal agencies operating Nigeria's airport and airspace systems," the study said.
Demuren, the Authority's Director General, acknowledges that challenges remain for his agency as it has an aging work force and old equipment but insists that things have improved greatly.
In the five years since the ADC crash, Nigeria has not had another major commercial airplane crash, something the nation's leaders point to with pride. In August 2010, the U.S. announced it had given Nigeria the FAA's Category 1 status, its top safety rating that allows the nation's domestic carriers to fly directly to the U.S.
Nigeria which has become a source of hope in aviation development and growth in Africa has deflated that hope with the Dana Air crash last Sunday that killed 159 people on board. Africa still controls only one per cent of air transport and at the same time suffers the notoriety of having the highest rate of air Crashes in the world.
But that good news was cut short on Sunday that Dana Air flight crashed. And from the above reports, it is obvious that those problems that caused the past Crashes are yet to go away.
If the weather is to be blamed, that will be tolerable, but not avoidable cause of Plane crashes.
Causes Of Plane Crashes In Nigeria
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