The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has grounded the US-bound Delta Airline aircraft that made an emergency landing at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMA), Ikeja, Lagos on Tuesday night.
The Commissioner of AIB, Mr. Akin Olateru, said the Bureau took the step because the Airline failed to report the incident, in which five persons were injured, 17 hours after it occurred.
“Consequently, the Bureau has impounded the aircraft and insisted that it must not be accessed to avoid contamination before investigation,” he said.
The Bureau also directed the crew not to travel until they are interviewed by the agency.
Olateru made this known while briefing aviation correspondents at the agency’s headquarter at the MMIA, Lagos on the latest on the incident involving the Delta Airline.
He said: “As you are aware, AIB is an agency of government that investigates accidents and serious incidents. The agency was established by an enabling Act of 2006, and all we do here is in accordance with our regulation which takes a cue from the ICAO Annexe 13. Everything we do here is in accordance with ICAO Annexe 13. Unfortunately, up until 3:00 pm, this afternoon, Delta as an airline has refused to notify AIB in accordance with the law of our country.
“But they notified the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) but they refused as at 3pm today, there is still no notification from Delta as to this serious incident. We have an obligation to notify the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on this serious incident but unfortunately, we cannot fulfil that obligation because we are still waiting for Delta to give us information as to this serious incident. This is a serious incident and by law we are investigating.” He explained that because the serious incident happened in Nigeria, it is the country of occurrence and it has a significant role to play in the investigation.
He regretted that instead of Delta reporting the mishap to Nigeria, it first reported it to NTSB.
According to him: “But in this case, we are able and equipped to investigate this serious incident and we will investigate it. But for the sake of clarity, I am disappointed in Delta. It is totally unacceptable, and we condemn it in its totality and I believe the way I see it we are being undermined, which is not acceptable.
“ICAO law governs all the activities of air transport business. They know that we must be notified. Our websites are there; they can download the form, they can download the App. We wrote to Delta October last year notifying them that we have AIB App, which they just need to download on their phone and send us notification.”
Throwing more light on the major incident, the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman, described the incident as very serious one after inspecting the damage and noted that the cause of the serious incident would be known after investigations have been carried out.
Usman said: “I have been at the site and from what we saw it is a serious incident and by ICAO standards and also in line with the NCAA Act that sets up the AIB, they will be investigating the serious incident to determine the cause and also make safety recommendations to prevent such from happening again.
“One of the engines of the aircraft was reportedly on fire, the captain requested or declared what we call May Day, which was an emergency that he wanted to come back citing one of the engines was on fire, requesting for emergency services and all the agencies that were required to be there were there for that aircraft to ensure that everything went smoothly.
“The aircraft landed safely, there was precautionary evacuation of passengers, however, details of the cause and recommendation will come from the AIB.”
The Delta Air Lines Flight DL055, which departed MMIA about 10.45 pm on Tuesday night made an air return to Lagos barely 31 minutes into the 11 hours flight, following a breakdown of one of the two engines mid-air.
Five of the over 100 passengers, who were on-board the Airbus A330-200 aircraft with registration number N858NW, were injured.
It was gathered that the injured passengers and crew members were rushed to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja; Air Force Base Clinic; and FAAN Medical Centre for speedy medical attention while the aircraft blocked access to the runway for about an hour before being pushed back to allow departure and landing of other aircraft.
A report received from the Consumer Protection Directorate (CPD) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) indicated that the flight departed at 22:45, but made an emergency landing at 23:16, which was 31 minutes after departure.
The report said that the pilot-in-command (PIC) announced the evacuation of all the passengers on board within 90 seconds, after contacting the control towers because the left engine of the aircraft caught fire mid-air in-flight.
The CPD report stated that passengers were evacuated via the emergency sliding doors within few seconds while all airport agencies’ officials on duty were on the ground within few minutes that the emergency alarm was announced.
Some of the agencies on ground included the Aviation Security (AVSEC), NCAA, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Fire Service, Port Health and Aviation Clinic.
Others were officials of Quarantine, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and several others who rendered assistance to the passengers and the crew members.
The report added: “Although, there is no death recorded as at the time of filing this report, but quite a number of crew and passenger casualties were recorded and have been taken to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) at Ikeja, Air Force Base Clinic and FAAN Medical Centre for speedy medical attention.
“Meanwhile, the Delta aircraft was on the runway for over an hour, which led to its closure before KLM, Lufthansa and Air France could depart afterwards. The aircraft was later towed with a push back truck to the open parking bay close to boarding gate E 63.
“However the remaining casualty-free passengers were later taken to a hotel after the flight was announced cancelled and rescheduled for a date yet to be specified and communicated.”
Delta in its statement noted that the flight landed safely and customers exited the aircraft on the runway via emergency slides.
It said that airport fire authorities met the aircraft upon arrival while the passengers were bussed back to the terminal.
It said: “Five of the passengers had non-critical injuries as a result of the evacuation. Delta teams have provided overnight hotel accommodations to customers and will rebook customers on an alternate Delta aircraft Wednesday (yesterday) afternoon. The safety of Delta’s customers and crew members is always our top priority.”
Both NCAA and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) have swung into action to find out what caused the incident and would make their reports known to the public as quickly as possible, sources from the agencies said.
The passengers of the ill-fated flight were billed to fly out with another airline on Wednesday night.