The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has questioned what it referred to as the reluctance of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to disclose runway incursion, which took place on Monday, when Arik Air flight with passengers on arrival at the Port Harcourt International Airport hit an antelope while landing on the runway.
THISDAY learnt that engineers from the international maintenance organisation, Lufthansa Technik, which works for Arik Air, checked the aircraft and found it airworthy.
The incident occurred on Monday by 6:00 pm and on Wednesday evening, AIB issued directive that the airline should not move the aircraft from the Port Harcourt airport runway until after it has carried out its own investigation.
Spokesman of the airline, Adebanji Ola who confirmed the incident to THISDAY said the aircraft was not damaged in anyway after it was inspected by engineers from Lufthansa Technik and after NCAA personnel inspected the aircraft and certified it airworthy, which means that it should resume flights immediately.
Arik with the report from NCAA and Lufthansa scheduled the aircraft for operations only to get the report from AIB that it should not operate its equipment; rather, it should still leave it on the runway where the incident occurred two days after, thus jeopardizing its operations.
But the spokesman of AIB Tunji Oketumbi told THISDAY that AIB was not informed of the incident until Tuesday evening so it directed that the aircraft should not be flown from the airport until it has investigated the incident.
Oketumbi said that it was not AIB’s plan to ground the airplane but according to regulations, the Bureau should have been informed immediately the incident took place by NCAA and that the regulatory body should not have certified the aircraft without the Bureau’s investigation.
THISDAY learnt that there has been muscle flexing between the two aviation agencies. Industry sources said AIB ought to investigate accidents and ought to defer to NCAA, even though it ought to be autonomous but NCAA is recognised as the regulator of the agency by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the US Federal Aviation Administration, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and other international and regional aviation organisations, “so what AIB is doing is that it is equating itself with NCAA or even trying to regulate NCAA, should not be the case; especially when an accident did not occur. This is a conflicting signal that is not good for the industry.”
Spokesman of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye said that NCAA and AIB have well delineated responsibility and that AIB is autonomous while NCAA as the regulator of the aviation industry is also autonomous, remarking that none is subordinate to the other but they have their responsibilities cut out for them.
A seasoned pilot and one time top official of one of the aviation agencies told THISDAY that AIB does not have the right, according to the regulations that established it, to ground aircraft; that it is the sole responsibility of NCAA to do so.
According to him, AIB responsibilities begin after the search and rescue in an accident and AIB cannot be investigating minor incidents like bird strike and runway incursions.
“Runway incursion happens everywhere and it is only NCAA that can look at it and certify the aircraft as airworthy. AIB does not have the personnel to do that and they are not established to do that. Airworthiness of an aircraft is determined by NCAA,” the source said.