The commissioner of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Mukhtar Usman, has announced that the bureau has concluded plans to build accident investigation laboratory at the cost of N8 billion where the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder of aircraft would be decoded.
The laboratory, which would be located in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would save the Federal Government huge resources and time that are spent taking such equipment overseas for decoding.
Usman, who made this known while interacting with aviation correspondents in Lagos recently, said that the laboratory might be completed by end of this year.
“The Bureau is very close to launching its own Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) laboratory from CAE/ FlightScape Incorporation of Canada which will enable us to download both flight recorders promptly during investigation. Hitherto and now, these units are taken overseas for downloading,'' he said.
The system, he explained, also has a capability of being used for real time flight data monitoring, adding that the laboratory would be located in Abuja in line with international practices whereby similar accident investigation laboratories of other developed countries are located in the nation’s capital.
He disclosed that the equipment had arrived in Nigeria and work would soon commence at the site allocated for it, stating that on completion, the laboratory would be able to handle cases of air, marine, road and rail crashes.
"We have highly qualified accident investigators who were trained in the world class institutions to man the laboratory on inauguration,” he said.
The commissioner added that the Bureau has commenced training its personnel in investigating marine, road and rail related accidents whenever they occurred and that the organisation planned collaboration with the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC) was still on-going.
Usman said that the agency had made recommendations to the Federal Government on how to prevent air accidents in the country and 20 out of the bureau's 32 recommendations had so far been implemented through Ministry of Aviation.
He observed that besides accident investigation, the bureau also researches how accidents should be prevented, influence government’s decision on policies that would help to improve air travel in the country.
According to him, part of the effort by the Federal Government to improve safety included the establishment of the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) project, airlines’ installation of ground tracking devices in their offices to monitor their aircraft while flying.
Emphasising the importance of TRACON, he recalled that no passenger could be rescued during the crashes of ADC, Bellview flights and Beechraft 1900 D aircraft at the time they occurred because there were no radar systems to track them so that they could be located immediately after the crash.
The AIB boss listed the safety recommendation to government to include the completion of the total radar coverage of the airspace, the provision of pilots and crew briefing rooms at the airport, as well as the provision of inboard and on the ground Sudanese detection equipment to boost safety.
He affirmed that safety has improved in the Nigerian airspace contrary to speculation in some sections, saying that if the airspace were unsafe, mega carriers from all over the world will not be flying into the country.
He also said that there is effective communications in the airspace and that is why airplanes are still flying in the country, noting that pilots cannot take off from any airport in the country without communication in the airspace.