The federal government has blamed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the recent flight incidents in the country. The agency, according to sources, does not implement safety recommendations from the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).
Inside source told THISDAY that if the safety recommendations were implemented some of the incidents that happened could have been averted.
Since this year, there have been major and minor incidents that included the falling off of emergency door of Dana Air flight, the overshooting of the runway by another Dana Air flight at the Port Harcourt airport, Delta Air Line Flight 55, which made air return seven minutes after take off from the Lagos airport to Atlanta, US. One of the airlineâ€™s aircraft engines caught fire due to what was now known as crack in one of the nozzles inside the engine.
There was also the incident when smoke enveloped the cabin of Arik Air flight while it was airborne from Lagos to Accra, Ghana, 35 minutes into the flight among other incidents involving commercial airlines.
THISDAY learnt that in chiding NCAA, the Ministry of Transportation decided to set up a committee to look at all the safety recommendations from AIB, which came as a result of accident investigation to ascertain whether they had been implemented.
The Commissioner of AIB, Akin Olateru said at a media briefing on Wednesday that out of 27 accidents reports, which his management inherited, it has completed 10 investigations and made the report public. Consequently, he said that the Bureau came up with 35 safety recommendations. He also disclosed that since inception in 2007, AIB has made 120 safety recommendations from accident investigations and reports.
Although during the briefing, Olateru did not link the setting up of the committee to the recent incidents, inside source told THISDAY that it was to stem aircraft incidents and possible accidents that the committee was set up to review the recommendations and to ensure that they were implemented by the NCAA.
â€œWhen we investigate accidents and incidents, we come up with safety recommendations to prevent future occurrence. Out of the 10 investigations we have put out, we came up with 35 safety recommendations to prevent future occurrence of similar incident or accident,â€ Olateru said.
The Commissioner also remarked that the responsibility of AIB is to investigate accidents and incidents and make safety recommendations, while it is the responsibility of NCAA to implement those recommendations.
Olateru however did not dismiss the fact that the incidents of recent weeks might have led to the setting up of the review committee but noted that it was an appraisal to enhance safety in the nationâ€™s airspace.
â€œIn his wisdom the Hon. Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika approved to set up a committee to look through 120 safety recommendations; some targeted the NCAA, some were targeted at the airlines, some to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA, some to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), some to aircraft manufacturers and some to engine manufacturers as well to see the effectiveness of all these safety recommendations,â€ Olateru said.
THISDAY learnt that the incidents of the past weeks unsettled the industry, prompting air travellers to seek alternative means of transport, a development that has reduced air passenger traffic, especially on domestic routes.
However, Olateru had dismissed the fears and said that many of the incidents are what happen regularly in other countries, especially advanced nation where flight operations are very high and accused the media of blowing incidents out of proportion and frightening the flying public.
He said that the review of the safety recommendations is important because it would help to entrench safety.
â€œMaybe yes or no the events of the recent past may have led to this, but it is still not too late as far as I am concerned. It is a way of evaluating. This is not enforcement but this will enhance NCAAâ€™s job, as an enforcer and AIB job as recommender. This is self-auditing for NCAA and this is a high powered committee and this committee will be reported to the Minister of State, Aviation,â€ Olateru also said.
However, THISDAY learnt that NCAA has reinforced its oversight functions since those incidents happened and has commenced auditing of some of the airlines.