By Chinedu Eze
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has attributed the cause of the Bellview Airlines Limited flight 210 which crashed at Lisa village in Ogun State on October 22, 2005 to the failure of the airline to ground the aircraft and carry out maintenance checks when technical faults were discovered.
In a report of the investigations carried out by the Bureau and released at the weekend, it also blamed the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for its failure to effectively carry out its oversight functions.
Recall that Bellview Airlines Limited flight 210 crashed at Lisa village in Ogun State on October 22, 2005 and killed 117 persons on board.
The crashed Bellview flight was reported to have left Lagos to Abuja at 2035 hours (6:35 pm local time), with two pilots, one licensed engineer, three flight attendants, and 111 passengers on board.
All 117 persons were killed and the airplane was destroyed by the impact forces and fire.
Although AIB said the objective of the investigation was not to apportion blame but to serve as safety guide to prevent future accident, the shortcomings of the airline and NCAA were apparent in the report.
But in a statement signed by its head of corporate affairs department, Terver-Uzer Luke, Bellview Airlines Limited alleged that the latest report on the crash was doctored because it was not in tandem with preliminary report on the accident that was made public in 2009 and attributed the distortion of the initial investigation to internal politics that bedevils the Bureau.
AIB said in the report that after extensive investigation it could not identify the conclusive evidence to explain the cause of the accident involving the ill-fated Bellview flight, but the investigation considered several factors that could explain the accident.
These factors include “the PIC (pilot in command) training of the captain before taking command on the B737 aircraft which was inadequate, the cumulative flight hours of the pilot in the days before the accident which was indicative of excessive workload that could lead to fatigue.
“Furthermore, the investigation revealed that the airplane had technical defects.”
The report said that the airplane should not have been dispatched for either the accident flight or earlier flights, adding that the absence of forensic evidence prevented the determination of the captain’s medical condition at the time of the accident.
“The missing flight recorders to reconstruct the flight also precluded the determination of his performance during the flight. Due to lack of evidence, the investigation could not determine the effect, if any, of the atmospheric disturbances on the airplane or the flight crew’s ability to maintain continued flight.”
It added that the operator (the airline) could not maintain the continuing airworthiness of its aircraft, in ensuring compliance of its flight and maintenance personnel with the regulatory requirements.
“The Civil Aviation Authority’s safety oversight of the operator’s procedures and operations was inadequate.”
Bellview management also alleged in the statement that AIB circulated a draft final report reference 2/2009 (BLV 2005/10/22) to the relevant authorities including the state of design and ourselves in 2009.
“This report has now been doctored four years thereafter without inviting us to comment on the fundamental alteration to the original report in accordance with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) Annex 13. This doctored report is geared to make Bellview the scapegoat with the ulterior motive of abandoning further investigation to find the true cause of the accident,” the statement said.
Bellview argued that AIB stated in its report that the true cause of the sad accident was still unknown and “still went ahead to make speculative allusions. Accident report should be factual and not speculative about the cause of the accident.”
Bellview insisted that the aircraft was dispatched and operated in accordance with the aircraft manufacturers approved maintenance manual and the minimum equipment list. The state of design came to a different conclusion that based on scientific investigation coupled with numerous laboratory analyses of the parts removed from the aircraft.
“Nothing on the aircraft as at the time of flight could have been a likely cause of the accident. AIB ignored the fact that the crew made no emergency call which implied that whatever must have happened will most likely have been sudden and catastrophic,” Bellview also said.
AIB raised the question about the medical condition of the pilot who had stopped flying for 12 years between 1992 and 2004 but travelled to the United States for training on the operated aircraft, B737-200.
“Before the captain joined Bellview Airlines in October, 2004, he had worked for Imani Aviation, Okada Air, Gas Air and Kabo Airlines. He was out of active flying for 12 years, between 1992 and 2004.
“In August, 2004, he went for B-737 pilot – in – command (PIC) training at Aero Services Aviation Centre, Florida, USA and obtained a Certificate of Completion on the 28th of August, 2004. He then joined Bellview Airlines on the 11th of October, 2004 as a captain under training. He was released as a line captain to take command on the B-737 aircraft on the 9th of November, 2004. His employment occurred nine months after he had suffered serious injuries in which he was a victim of a criminal attack. He had his last simulator training at United Flight Training Services, Denver, USA on the 28th of May, 2005.”
Although Bellview insisted that the pilot had higher flying hours on the operated aircraft than stated by AIB, but the report of Associated Press (AP), which relied on information from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and published last year seemed to have corroborated AIB report on the health of the pilot.
According to the report, “on the October 22, 2005 crash of a Bellview Airlines flight that killed 177 people, including a U.S. citizen, showed the plane nose-dived into the ground at high speed. Investigators reportedly found only human remains that were ‘nothing bigger than toes and fingers,’” the report read.
The AP report also said, “The plane's captain, a 49-year-old former pilot, had been allegedly hired by Bellview after he had been working at a dairy for about 14 years, the summary read. The pilot also had been ‘shot in the head during a robbery attempt’ during that break from flying,” the report said.