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Nigeria: Aviation sector lacks updated safety oversights, Experts warn
… As Senate summons minister over seven near mishaps in six weeks
Barely six years after Nigeria witnessed its last air crash, which claimed 153 lives on board of the Dana Air Flight 992, experts in the aviation sector and lawmakers in the Senate have warned that the most populated black nation might witness another crash that could be more devastating if certain proactive measures are not taken.
The stakeholders and lawmakers are worried that the recent mishaps witnessed in what they described as an ailing sector could spell doom for the nation if the Federal Government is not proactive.
NEAR MISHAPS IN SIX WEEKS
For instance, on January 26, an air incident was averted after an aircraft operated by Nestoil lost its landing gear and two tires while landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
With nine persons on board, the aircraft skidded off the runway as two of its back tires pulled off when it touched down at the NAIA, a development that led to the closure of the runway.
Also on the next day, another plane, a commercial aircraft belonging to Dana Air, hit a fence at the airport with its left wing.
While Caracal Reports found that the Dana flight, with registration number 5N-DEV from Port Harcourt, brushed the fence trying to park after it landed at the NAIA, some of the passengers alleged that the pilot was at fault for the incident.
On February 16, an Air Peace plane from Lagos was prevented from landing at the Akure airport, as cows took over the runway.
Some of the airport workers told our correspondent that it took the efforts of airport security and other aviation staff to clear the runway, while the pilot was said to have contemplated returning to Lagos before he was eventually cleared to land.
A few days later (night of February 20), a Dana Air plane overshot the runway of the Port Harcourt airport in Rivers State, after it touched down. The aircraft, with number 9J0363, flew into Port Harcourt after taking passengers from Abuja.
An aircraft is said to have overshot the runway when it moves past a specified point unintentionally, and this can be as a result of too much speed or the inability of the plane to stop.
The latest incident was the Medview’ Flight VL2108 near mishap when the Boeing 737 had a Ramp return on an account of a safety issue at the NAIA on March 4.
Findings revealed that at 1400HRS while attempting to depart Abuja to Maiduguri on the final segment of the sector, the flight had to return to base after commencing taxiing after an indicator lamp signifying a minor disorder emerged.
“The Captain, exercising the appropriate abundance of caution and in compliance with applicable safety standards aborted the flight and returned to base for technical assistance. We were all disembarked in an orderly manner, returned to the lounge and were catered to by the airline in accordance with relevant Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations regarding treatment of passengers during delays,” one of the passengers told our correspondent.
FG, AIRLINES CARELESS- EXPERTS
Meanwhile, experts in the industry have placed a vote of no confidence on both the federal government and airline operators in the nation.
Some of them told Caracal Reports that they are worried over reported cases of unhealthy practices across the nation.
For instance, they alleged that there are some incursions into the tarmac of some airports by unauthorised persons and animals should be addressed as it might either lead to a crash or erode investors’ confidence on the sector.
A former Secretary, Airline Operators of Nigeria, Alhaji Mohammed Tukur, tasked the government to intensify safety oversight on the operations of airlines and the major airports across the country.
According to him, it was frightening to count over six air avoidable incidents in four weeks adding that the incident where an aircraft overshot the runway in Rivers State frightened several passengers as it has affected the patronage of the affected airline.
He said, “A lot more work should be done by the government and operators as they need to sit up and avert such situations from reoccurring. On the part of the government, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority needs to increase its oversight function at the airports and on airlines. Before the recent incident where an aircraft overshot the runway.
“Old pilots should teach young ones, instead of allowing them to put passengers in fear. Some of them are not good at landing an aircraft without the full aid of an automated Instrument Landing System, which is why you hear of an aircraft overshooting the runway.
“Therefore, pilots need to be trained and retrained so that in cases of the limited functionality of the ILS or when the runway is soaked or wet, the pilots will safely drop the planes without frightening their passengers.”
Another industry expert, Capt. Dele Ore, said, “We need an improved safety oversight of airlines and the industry by the government and its agencies. But the agency should not put airlines under undue pressure and passengers should please not be scared of flying because the industry is doing all it can to be safe.”
CONDUCT AIRWORTHINESS AUDIT ON AIRLINES, SENATE TO MINISTER
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Senate have summoned the Minister of State for Transportation (Aviation), Mr. Hadi Sirika, to address the chamber in plenary on the recent near mishaps in Nigeria.
The lawmakers unanimously urged the Minister “to immediately direct all relevant agencies in the aviation industry to immediately conduct a maintenance and airworthiness audit on all commercial aircraft operating within the Nigerian airspace as well as the training of personnel operating within the industry.”
Senator Gbenga Ashafa of Lagos-East, who insisted that Sirika should address the chamber and not appear before a committee, said, “The Senate observes that on the 20th of February, 2018, the story of a near-fatal incident involving Dana Airline with Number 9J0363 hit the news waves. It was reported that the aircraft overshot the runway upon landing at the Port Harcourt airport on a flight from Abuja. This incident was attributed to the wet surface of the runway.
“The Senate recalls that just a few weeks before the aforestated event, there was also panic on Wednesday, 7th of February, 2018, when the emergency door of an aircraft conveying passengers to Abuja fell, off upon landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
“The Senate is concerned that these recent occurrences might be a sign of a sequence of human errors, caused by the failure of officials and staff of the agencies saddled with the responsibility of guaranteeing safety to carry out their due diligence before issuing clearance for aircraft to operate within the Nigerian airspace.”
WE ARE INVESTIGATING INCIDENTS- DANA AIR
Contrary to the allegations of negligence and lack of experience of pilots against Dana Air, the airline has insisted that its operations and staff are of international standard.
On the allegation that its emergency door fell off on landing at the NAIA, the Manager, Media, and Communications, Dana Air, Mr. Kingsley Ezenwa, explained that the incident could not have happened if no one tried to open the door.
He said, “We wish to state that such incident could not have happened without a conscious effort by a passenger. While our investigation is on-going, we assure our passengers that Dana Air does not and would not compromise on safety measures for anything.”