Demuren: Lawmakers Got it Wrong on Cause of Dana Crash

18 Jan 2013

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Dr. Harold Demuren

The Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, spoke on the allegations levelled against him and his agency over the crash of Dana Air Flight J9 992 by the National Assembly in Lagos. Chinedu Eze and Martha Momoh were there
Non-compliance with NCAA’s procedure for issuance of Airline Operator Certificate (AOC) to Dana Airlines
With the greatest humility and respect to the distinguished Senators and Honorable Members, these types of considerations may be construed as political interference in safety regulations which the Senate President and Joint Committee at the beginning of its sitting and public hearing explicitly stated that it had no intention to do. With due respect to the powers of the National Assembly to conduct oversight, a strict and intolerant construction of this exercise is certain to compromise our certifications and violate our international obligations.

The AOC process is perhaps the most intense, technical and comprehensive safety process the NCAA engages in. It is a five-phase process. It includes flying the aircraft in demonstration flights for 50 hours without passengers in the 4th phase. The only people on the aircraft are the crew and NCAA Safety Inspectors. It also involves analysis of technical and other operational manuals and processes of the airline including number of crew and their qualifications and evidence of the plan or program for carrying out both light and heavy repairs on the aircraft of the airline. The process is exactly the same for every airline. The same process that certified Arik, is the one Dana went through. After the crash, Dana has undergone the rigorous AOC recertification.
On the allegation that NCAA inspectors were not type-rated on the aircraft flown by Dana Air, especially the MD83, and call for the dismissal of the inspector that inspected crashed the aircraft
ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) requirement for Aviation Safety Inspectors in CAAs (Civil Aviation Authority) is that they must possess aeronautical engineering degrees and complete aircraft manufacturer’s course on the various types of aircraft and engine operating in the country. The NCAA fully complies with this. These are key issues that were inspected and examined in Nigeria passing the ICAO Safety Audit and U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) of the US Category-1. Even persons who were previously maintenance engineers cease to be when they start working for the CAA. The CAA’s role is safety oversight, not aircraft repair. As a matter of fact, all CAA inspectors are prohibited from carrying out repair on aircraft or aircraft components.

Among NCAA safety inspectors include pilots type rated on MD-83 aircraft. Regulators are never type rated to do their work. They are type qualified after appropriate training. NCAA has sufficient type qualified inspectors. They are neither operational pilots flying commercially nor aircraft mechanics carrying out repairs on aircraft. Most importantly, the practice of using Licensed Maintenance Engineers is archaic and only now limited to small and private aircraft owners. The worldwide practice is to ensure that aircraft are maintained by Approved Maintenance Organizations (AMO). For instance, Arik’s current and modern fleet is maintained by AMOs, specifically Lufthansa Technics. Arik does not have specific employees who are licensed Maintenance Engineers type rated on Boeing 737-800.

This sometimes technical, but subtle industry nuances is the reason why there are centralized and globally accepted standards and organizations for making such critical assessments. They are trained and experienced professionals and expert organisations who are trained Safety Auditors.

NCAA inspectors are sufficiently trained and their training empowers them to perform safety oversight. It’s like saying a trained and qualified aeronautical engineer or airframe engineer is unqualified to speak about aircraft engine or airframe technology because he is not type rated on a particular aircraft, but the aircraft mechanic who is only trained to repair components of the engine of one type of aircraft is authoritative.

It is like saying that an automobile engineer is less qualified to conduct oversight than a mechanic on a type of car or that an electrician who just wires and installs is more qualified to discuss design and compliance than an electrical engineer or that a bricklayer is better qualified on matters of structure and plan than a structural engineer or that a draughtsman who only draws plans is more appropriate than an architect on the building integrity. Would an automobile engineer be unable to determine the efficiency or performance of an engine, because his is not certified to repair Volkswagen cars?

The Report does not fully capture and characterize the import of the law when it notes that the Director General of the NCAA is unqualified under the Civil Aviation Act, because he is not licensed or type-rated on any aircraft. What the law requires in the section 8(2)(d) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006 quoted is that the Director General shall be a person “who possess relevant and adequate professional qualifications, and have the qualification for at least 15 years”.

There is no provision in the law that requires the Director-General to be licensed or type-rated on any aircraft. However, and for the comfort of the distinguished and honourable members of the Committee, the current Director General is both a design, and maintenance engineer. He is type rated on Russian aircraft, Ilushin 62, with NK-8 engines. He has undergraduate, graduate (M.SC, Aircraft Maintenance Engineering) and doctoral degrees in aeronautical engineering (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

In addition, he possesses professional qualifications, including senior membership of the Council of Registered Engineers (COREN) and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is a Chartered Engineer of the United Kingdom and a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Aeronautical Society, which incorporates aeronautical engineers, helicopter association and licensed aircraft engineers. He is also a Fellow of the Nigeria Academy of Engineering. In addition, he holds several certificates for aircraft maintenance, airworthiness and training on a variety of engines including by Roll Royce, Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and U.K Civil Aviation Authority during a distinguished exclusive aviation safety career that has spanned over 40 years.
On allegation that Prestige Insurance is owned by Dana Group
To the best of NCAA’s knowledge and based on our due diligence, Prestige is a legitimate insurance company. It is an insurance company registered in Nigeria by the Corporate Affairs Commission and approved by NAICOM (National Insurance Commission). Prior to NCAA accepting the coverage to Dana as acceptable, NAICOM approved the product and for Prestige to provide it to Dana. In addition, and for the further comfort of the Committee, there is evidence that both interim and final compensation to families of the Dana crash is in progress.

Some have not been paid because of the legal and tedious process of obtaining and verifying the appropriate personal representatives of the deceased through Letters of Administrations. The NCAA has been providing active support in this regard and continues to interface with the relevant government authorities to expedite the issuance and verification of these vital legal documents. Further, there was additional insurance by Lloyds of London, abundance of evidence of which exists. The NCAA, NAICOM or DANA could have provided this evidence to the Committee if the Committee required it. This evidence includes evidence of consultations between the insurance companies and adoption of a resolution to pay the maximum liability limit of $100, 000 and evidence of payments to victims’ families.
Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) are ill equipped
These technical determinations are also made by expert organizations that are created and trained for that purpose and possess the experience to make such assessments. There are professional organizations such as the Airport Council International (ACI) that are used worldwide for such assessments. NCAA usually engages and liaises with these institutions for such assessments and would be happy to coordinate between the Committee and such organization to secure an assessment that is based on the globally accepted parameters. As regulator, the NCAA is very familiar with the capacity of aviation parastatals and believes there is always room for improvement, but, at the same time, they are not necessarily ill-equipped.
On the allegation that Dana recorded 14 air returns in three years
Without context, this statement could be misleading or incomplete. Air returns are not necessarily an indication that the aircraft is not airworthy. On the contrary, air returns are more likely to be a result of very strict safety standards that require an abundance of caution, including in situations that don’t rise to the serious failures that could fatally jeopardize the operation of flight. It is a standard recommended safety precautionary measure. After every single air return, NCAA Airworthiness Safety Inspectors physically clear the aircraft, before it is released back to operation.

Tags: Business, Nigeria, Featured, Harold Demuren, U.K Civil Aviation Authority

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