Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah
The report of the Technical and Administrative Review Panel on Domestic Airlines (TARPA) released recently has stated as part of its findings that the regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has poor inspection of airlines’ maintenance practices.
This is a very dangerous signal, according to industry experts who said that the authority might have fallen short of the disciplined and strict procedures that earned the country top safety approvals: the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) audit and Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) Category one in the later years, culminating in the tragic Dana Air crash in Lagos that killed 163 persons.
According to TARPA report, “It was also found out that in some instances, the surveillance by NCAA inspectors on the airlines’ maintenance practices were below expectation. This is attributed to such factors as insufficient manpower and training.”
A top industry expert involved in the several technical audit of one of the major Nigerian airlines told THISDAY last Wednesday that it was imperative for the regulatory body to have qualified inspectors with up-to-date knowledge of their jobs and who are well rated in the aircraft of their specialisation.
“If you don’t have qualified inspectors who know what they are doing, it is like a blind man trying to manage traffic. It is a matter of time before the vehicles will start crashing on themselves.”
The source said that it was the duty of NCAA to make sure that every aircraft deemed to fly is air worthy before it will be allowed to fly, “ not just on paper inspection but physical inspection of that aircraft.”
The source lamented that what had happened to the regulatory body was “the failure of being able to give good leadership devoid of corruption, favouritism and creating the aura of fear for the boss.”
The industry expert said NCAA did not have a structure because “it is built around an individual. Its operations are not even computerised so how do you store, retrieve and have the profile of each aircraft under your watch?”
The source said that if the PMI had been effective in carrying out his duty there would have been no room for the alleged reneging of maintenance procedures, which the panel levelled against Dana Air.
The panel said in its report: “Certain maintenance practices by Dana Airline particularly the use of technical logbook were not in conformity with standard and recommended practices.”
The industry expert recommended that the staff of NCAA must be trained continuously and those that do not conform to the system should be weeded out and replaced, stressing the need to be objective and work purely on merit, adding that the Authority must be restructured for improved results.
Senior Special Adviser to the President on Aviation, Captain Sheyu Iyal, said what NCAA needed was training and retraining of its workforce, sincerity of purpose, pointing out that the manpower in the regulatory body should be superior to what can be obtained in the airlines “because they audit and regulate these airlines so they should have superior credentials.”