By Chinedu Eze
A team of accident investigators from Nigeriaâ€™s Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Â left Lagos last week for SÃ£o TomÃ© to commence investigation into the crash of a An – 74 aircraft, which occurred recently on the West African island.
Spokesman of the agency, Tunji Oketumbi disclosed this in a statement and explained that the invitation toÂ Nigeriaâ€™s AIB came from SÃ£o TomÃ© and Principe through the Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA), which is an arm of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). All costs and expense associated with the said investigation would be borne 100 percent by the government of SÃ£o TomÃ© and Principe.
Oketumbi said this is the first time in the agencyâ€™s history, coming on the heels of the rising performance profile of the bureau and its determination to be pre-eminently relevant as a leader in accident investigation across the sub-Saharan region.
The An-74 was performing its takeoff run in favourable weather on runway 29 at Sao Tome when at some point, one or multiple birds collided with the aircraft.
AIB also explained that the Russian aircraft, whilst doing an aborted take-offÂ reportedlyÂ ran beyond the end of the runway where it fell down an embankment and was damaged beyond repair.Â Although theÂ aircraft was badly damaged, all theÂ six crew members survived with injuries.
The accident aircraft was on a return flight to Europe after it arrived at Sao Tome from Stavanger (Norway), Luxemburg and Ghardaia (Algeria).The only runway at Sao Tome is 2,160 meters (7,087 ft) in lengh and has only limited overrun capabilities.
This invitation fromÂ SÃ£o TomÃ©Â and Principe through BAGAIA, is an attestation to AIBâ€™s capabilities and competency in terms of human and infrastructural resource readiness that can be deployed in assisting our sister African countries in times of need. It also underscores her importance and positioning in the conduct and delivery of aircraft Accident Investigation within sub Saharan Africa.
Oketumbi said that Nigeria is the only country with an autonomous and functioning aviation accident investigation agency in West Africa and the most endowed in terms of facilities, adding that the agency has a flight safety laboratory for the download and analysis of information from flight recorders and materials laboratory, both situated in Abuja, Nigeriaâ€™s federal capital.
On the invitation, the Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of AIB, Akin Olateru said that AIB was pleased to be called upon to assist a sister African country, adding that the agency was just living up to its billing as a pacesetter in the sub region.
Olateru said: “We are very pleased to be invited by BAGAIA to carry out this investigation, which is in recognition of and an explicit expression of confidence in our capabilities and professionalism. Without gainsaying, this opportunity to serve will further build AIBâ€™s capacity as it provides a platform for practical learning; develops and enhances the skills set and knowledge base of our accident investigators, thereby increasing competency and promoting professionalism across board.â€