The Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), yesterday released final reports of six air accidents and serious incidents that occurred in the Nigerian aviation industry between 2009 and 2014.
Among the reports released was the accident involving an Associated Air aircraft with registration number, 5N-BJY, carrying the corpse of erstwhile Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, which took place at about 9.30am on October 3, 2013, minutes after take-off from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
Commissioner/CEO of AIB, Mr. Akin Olateru, presented the report at a press conference in Lagos, blamed the decision of the pilots to continue the take-off of the aircraft despite having been notified via the indicator on the cockpit that the second propeller of the aircraft was faulty and lacked the required thrust to push the aircraft through the sky for safe flight.
Aside damaging the casket containing the remains of Dr. Agagu, the Associated Airlines crash consumed the lives of 16 of its passengers, while only four survivors were taken out alive. The airline was on a charter operation from Lagos to Akure for the burial of the former governor.
The AIB report also blamed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for not effectively carrying out its oversight functions on the airworthiness of the aircraft and competences of the flight crew.
“Our investigations found out that the aircraft crashed because it was stalled (couldn’t continue moving upwards) as a result of low thrust at start of roll for take-off from its second engine which was caused by an undetermined malfunction of the propeller control unit,” said Olateru.
“The co-pilot had suggested to the Pilot-in-Command that the flight be aborted but he ignored and went ahead. The decision to continue the take-off with flap configuration warning and auto-feather warning at low speed amounted to poor professional conduct of the flight crew.
“There was inadequate application of Crew Resource Management (CRM) principles and poor company culture as well as inadequate regulatory oversight by NCAA,” the AIB boss said.
In its safety recommendations to forestall similar occurrences in the future, the AIB said “NCAA should intensify its safety oversight functions on the airlines to ensure that flight operations are carried out in accordance with approved operations manuals in line with the provisions of Nigerian civil aviation laws.
“The NCAA should intensify its safety oversight on Associated Aviation to ensure staff welfare issues and remunerations are settled promptly,” the AIB added.
There were unconfirmed rumours after the crash that the airline was hugely indebted to its staff and that the decision of the pilot to “manage” the faulty aircraft amid safety concerns was premised on a plan that once he lands the aircraft in Akure (having been owed for months) he would get his remuneration instantly from those who chartered the aircraft which he never lived to actualise.
Another accident report released by AIB was that of Westlink Airlines Limited Piper Aztec 23-250 aircraft with registration number 5N-BGZ, which occurred at Matseri Village, Bunza Local Government Area of Kebbi State on August 11, 2014.
Other serious incident reports involved Aero Contractor’s DHC-8-400 aircraft incident with registration 5N-BPT, with the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) baggage loader on April 29, 2014, two Bristow Helicopters aircraft, Bell 412 helicopters with registration numbers 5N-BGS and 5N-BDD, at the Addax Base Helipad, Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria on November 12, 2009.
Also released were the final reports of incidents involving two aircraft belonging to Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT).