Stakeholders Warn of Looming Danger in Aviation Sector

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Chinedu Eze

Stakeholders in the aviation industry have warned of impeding danger in the sector, pointing out that the two Dana Air flights incidents in the last two weeks may be an augury of more tragic incidents or accidents that could happen if the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) fails to reinforce safety and security oversight.

A fortnight ago, Dana Air flight’s emergency door fell off after the aircraft landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Also, on Tuesday one of its flights overshot the runway at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.

The stakeholders said that in the run up to a major accident in the history of aviation in Nigeria, incidents that indicate lapses usually herald most major disasters, adding that Nigeria has learnt a lot that should enable it avert another tragedy in the industry.

A former inspector with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and presently an expatriate staff of a Civil Aviation Authority of another African nation, told THISDAY that the regulatory authority has become complacent in its oversight functions.

“Yes, I see these as a lapse in the NCAA safety oversight activities. These things don’t appear immediately until conditions line up for them to happen”, he said.

On the recent incident in Port Harcourt, where a Dana Aircraft overshot the runway, the former NCAA inspector said: “l have always had this worry about the capability of the management of the airline. This vindicates my position. Nevertheless, it is an indication of laxity of the authority.”

He added: “The Delta Air Lines fire is a different issue and may not have been covered by the NCAA oversight. However, the question is how many times have they conducted ramp inspection on the aircraft? This aspect will seriously tell against them.”

Reacting to the allegation of complacence, spokesman of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye said: “We had zero accident rating for the year that just ended (2017) and everyone commended NCAA for strict compliance to safety regulations. We couldn’t have gone to sleep a month after. What is happening now simply calls for all the parties in the sector to be more vigilant.”

On the Port Harcourt incident, THISDAY gathered from the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) that it issued a warning in its weather report that there would be thunderstorm and rains but while other airlines stayed back, including Air France, which aborted flying to Port Harcourt but landed in Lagos, Dana Air pilot defied the warning.
The NMET source indicated that the pilot might have shut off radio communication between the aircraft and Air Traffic Controller before landing, but the airline did not confirm this allegation to THISDAY.

A former NIMET official however, said there were three conditions under which the aircraft could overshoot the runway. One, poor visibility, which may cause the pilot not to land at the appropriate touch down zone and this may lead to overshooting the runway. Two is over flooded runway. He said pilots who are not used to wet landing may overshoot the runway due to aquaplaning. Third, the overshooting could be due to poor breaking system.

“I may not be able to say exactly what happened. However, if it is as a result of weather condition, I can tell you that NIMET always makes weather information available at all airports. So if the airline did not get the required weather information, it could be that the airline officials did not avail themselves of the information,” he said.