Dana Plane crash site
The flight data recorder (FDR) of Dana Air flight 0992, which crashed on June 3 at Iju-Ishaga, a Lagos suburb, killing over 160 people, has been confirmed to have been intact when it was discovered two days after the accident.
Initial reports, shortly after the accident, had claimed that the FDR was destroyed by the post-crash fire.
A flight data recorder is an electronic device employed to record any instruction sent to any electronic system on an aircraft. It is a device used to record specific aircraft performance parameters.
The revelation that the FDR of the Dana Air flight was intact is coinciding with investigations by THISDAY that Nigeria’s largest airline, Arik Air, has initiated plans to go public, preparatory for its listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), in its preliminary investigation released two months ago, said the FDR, popularly known as the black box, was burnt but the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) retained had some conversation between the pilot and co-pilot.
According to the AIB preliminary report, “The two flight recorders, the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR), were analysed at the facilities of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Washington, D.C., USA.
“The solid state based memory in the CVR was in good condition and retained 31 minutes of audio information. The digital tape-based memory in the FDR succumbed to the post-crash fire and melted, consequently no data could be recovered.”
But Captain Mike Omokore of Broadlink Aviation Services said in a statement exclusively given to THISDAY that his company was contracted to search for the FDR and it was discovered two days after the crash and handed over to an official of AIB without any physical damage.
Omokore said his company found the black box after an exhaustive search “in collaboration with the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) and AIB, on Tuesday, June 5,” and wondered why there was so much controversy surrounding the black box when it was in the safe custody of the AIB.
He denied claims that the black box was damaged as he personally found it intact and handed it over to one Mr. Dialla of AIB in very good condition.
“The black box was in good condition externally when it was recovered. You have to understand that the black box is built according to specific standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), precisely engineered and purposefully constructed to withstand the force of a high speed impact and the heat of an intense fire,” he explained.
Omokore, who is a civil aviation pilot, said another mystery was the exact location of the black box now after its safe delivery to the AIB.
According to him, once a black box is recovered from the scene of an aircraft crash site, it ought to be dispatched, as soon as possible, to one of the few organisations in the world that has the ability to analyse the data from the recorder.
When the AIB released its preliminary report, industry operators who spoke to THISDAY expressed doubt that the black box was intact, expressing concerns that it might have been damaged by fire.
A Nigerian pilot and top official of a major domestic airline said the FDR can withstand a maximum temperature of 1,000oC, but temperatures above that would melt.
He argued that AIB has to explain to Nigerians the intensity of the heat that caused it to melt, remarking that if the FDR really melted, it is expected that other parts of the aircraft would also have melted.
“Why was it only the FDR that melted? It has the capacity to withstand very intense heat before it can melt and that temperature is 1000 degrees and if the equipment melted, it is expected that all the iron in the aircraft around the black box should have also melted.
“So we should get the serial number of the FDR and go to the internet and find out its profile so that we would know that degree of heat that can melt it.”
Despite his insistence, the FDRs of the last major air accidents that took place in the country were never found and that fact cast doubts on the recent claim by AIB that it had recovered the black box of the Dana Air ill-fated flight.
Meanwhile, THISDAY has learnt that Arik Air has initiated plans to go public as a prelude to getting listed on the NSE.
The airline plans to sell a substantial part of its shares to the public and would become the second Nigerian carrier to do so after the defunct ADC Airline.
Sources close to the airline said the intention of the management of the company is to give Nigerians the opportunity to buy shares in the airline and have a say on how it is operated.
In furtherance of this objective, Arik is said to have contracted Deloitte & Touche, UK, as part of preparations to meet the listing requirements.
The chairman of Arik Air, Sir Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide first dropped the hint of the airline going public sometime last year at the airline’s fifth anniversary press conference, adding that the airline was the pride of the country and would want Nigerians to become proud owners of the airline which is the biggest in West and Central Africa.
When contacted, Arik Air spokesman, Adebanji Ola said, “We are discussing with our financial advisers and will come out with a statement at the appropriate time.”
Arik Air has 23 new generation aircraft, about 2,000 workers, operates to over 20 domestic airports, six sub-regional destinations and three international destinations – London, New York and Johannesburg.
In the West African region, it operates to Accra (Ghana), Banjul (Gambia), Dakar (Senegal), Freetown (Sierra Leone), Monrovia (Liberia), Cotonou (Benin), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and Bamako (Mali).
The Nigerian carrier operates 120 daily flights from its hubs in Lagos and Abuja, was the first African operator of an A340-500, first African operator of CRJ900 and Q400 airplanes, is due to take delivery of the new Airbus A330-200, and has been Africa’s fastest growing airline for the last two years.