One of the major challenges the Nigerian aviation industry had before now is the long time it takes to investigate an accident.
For example, it took over a decade to investigate the Bellview Airlines Flight 210 crash that happened at Lisa Village, Ogun state on October 22, 2005 and even when the result was released, it was mired in controversy.
The result of the accident investigation ended in accusation and counter accusation.
But today, things have changed.
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) which was established in 2007 has repositioned itself since the last two years to investigate accidents and incidents and publish the results shortly after.
The objective of accident investigations is largely to find out causes of accident and ways to possibly prevent such from happening in future.
So, after investigation the Bureau issues safety recommendations, which must be implemented to avert similar accident from happening in future.
Since it was established in 2007, AIB had made about 147 safety recommendations and in 2017 alone, it made 66 recommendations. In the same vein, the agency has also completed the investigation of almost the accidents and incident in its records in the last two years.
Last week the Bureau announced that it would carry out a review of its existing regulations, which seek to accommodate latest changes in the global aviation industry and to conform its activities with European standards in order to continue to retain its position as the leader on the continent.
In order to achieve, the agency held a peer review exercise in which experts were invited from Africa and Europe to look at what it has been doing so far and how it would improve in tandem with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards.
Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of AIB, Akin Olateru said the peer review exercise was carried out with European consultants with the objective to review its existing regulations to concerned stakeholders in the sector.
Olateru said the exercise would take place before the end of the year, noting that some of the existing regulations of AIB had since become outdated and needed changes, which he said could not be accommodated with the current regulations in use.
He observed that recently ICAO reviewed its Annex 18 to accommodate new developments in the industry, stressing that in order to remain relevant, an organisation like AIB would need to consistently look at its regulations.
Olateru, said that some of the core mandates of AIB were to investigate accident, recommend safety to prevent future occurrence and make aviation safer for business and air travellers, stressing that the planned review was part of such processes.
“AIB came to bear in 2007 via the Civil Aviation Act 2006; our regulation was designed to guide how you do things. That regulation is outdated, it has to be reviewed. Regulation basically is to guide the stakeholders and to let everybody know this is how reporting system is done.
“If you look at Annex 18, it has just been reviewed by ICAO. We need to bring our regulations to speed to capture those new areas because you have to constantly review how you do things for you to stay relevant, if not, you will become outdated,” he said.
On the peer reviewed carried out by two consultants on behalf of the bureau; Commissioner of Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA, Mr. Caj Frostell, Chief Air Safety Investigator, Safety Investigation Authority, Finland, Mr. Ismo Aaltonen and Olateru, said this was necessary in order to plug the existing gaps in the system.
Olateru explained that the peer review exercise included equipment, infrastructure, technical personnel, system, processes and procedures, regulations and the entire organisation while also benchmarking it with European standards.
The Commissioner said that the duo checked the entire AIB’s books to determine its conformity with best standards, adding that the Bureau would continue to invest in infrastructure and human capital in order to remain relevant in the industry.
Also commenting on the exercise, Frostell, said that AIB’s equipment and technical personnel could compete with the best in the world.
He specifically mentioned that the Bureau’s flight safety in Abuja was state-of-the-art, which would further make the agency to retain its number one position in the sub-region.
He, however, noted that AIB needed to close some noticed gaps in the existing system, just as he said that there was no perfect system anywhere in the world.
“This kind of review has been conducted in most European countries and this is international efforts to basically do the same thing in using the same material and again, we were very happy to see that the steps taken by AIB are very much on international level.
Besides, Aaltonen noted that AIB could handle all forms of accident investigations with its current equipment and personnel but advised that there should be more training and retraining of technical personnel in order to remain current on the job.