By Chinedu Eze
*Says investigation ongoing as chopper was not equipped with black box
*Solicits information, video clips from public
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Tuesday said the helicopter that crashed in Lagos last Friday had a valid Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A).
The bureau also said it had yet to unravel the cause of the crash, adding that investigation into the fatal accident is ongoing.
The crash, which clamed three lives (all crew), was the first aviation fatalities in over five years. It involved a Bell Helicopter 206-B III, with Serial Number 3216, Engine Model Allison 250–C20B and Nationality registration Marks 5N-BQW operated by Quorum Aviation. The flight originated in Port Harcourt with Lagos as its intended destination.
At a press briefing Tuesday, Commissioner/CEO of Accident Investigation Bureau, Engr. Akin Olateru, debunked speculations on social media about the probable cause of the crash and the claim that AIB had retrieved the Flight Data Recorder (FDR), popularly known as the Black Box.
He said: “We would like to clarify that AIB did not retrieve an FDR from the aircraft as the Bell 206 is certified at approximately 1,519kg (3,350lbs) and featured five seats. It does not meet the necessary criteria for an FDR and was not featured with one.
“The standard requirement for an FDR in any aircraft is ten seats.”
According to him, “From evidence gathered till date, the helicopter has a valid Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A) till October 29, 2020 and Quorum Aviation has a valid Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) that will expire November 20,2020.”
Noting that it is extremely important to note that the Aviation Industry is the most regulated industry globally and its operations are regulated in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), he said “the installation and application of FDRs in aircraft is guided by ICAO Annex 6, Parts 1 and 2. The basic standards for both Parts are essentially similar. Part 1 applies to commercial aircraft while Part 2 is for non-commercial operations.”
The AIB boss said an FDR on the aircraft would have aided the investigation but quickly added that, “nevertheless, our world class trained investigators are competent to retrieve information about a crash from the wreckage and several other components of the aircraft, the site of the crash, communication with the ATC, and other documents on the aircraft and the crew.”
He said the Bureau was notified of the crash at about 12:19 pm on August 28 and an investigation team was mobilized to the crash site shortly afterwards.
Giving the itinerary of the ill-fated helicopter, Olateru said: “On 28th August 2020, a Bell 206 B III helicopter with nationality and registration marks 5N-BQW, operated by Quorum Aviation Limited, started its engine at 09:15 h. At 0920 h, the helicopter lifted off from Port Harcourt Military Airport (DNPM) for EAN Hanger, Lagos Airport.
“At 11:45h, the aircraft established contact with Lagos Tower, reporting maintaining 1000 ft and estimating the station at 12:18 h. In the ensuing communication, the pilot was advised of station weather.
“At 12:10 h, the pilot reported sighting the airfield and was instructed by ATC, to report downwind for runway 18L.
“At 12:16h, the ATC tried unsuccessfully to establish contact with the aircraft.
“At 12:36h, ATC was informed of the crash of the helicopter by MMF02, a MMIA fire station.”
The AIB boss said at the crash site, two bodies were recovered while a third occupant was evacuated but died later in the hospital.
He said the aircraft wreckage was also recovered while the bureau had been receiving cooperation from Quorum Aviation Ltd, the owners and operator of the ill-fated aircraft.
Olateru said all relevant stakeholders had been notified including the aircraft and engine manufacturers.
He said as investigation into the crash continues, AIB needed the assistance of the public in terms of video clip, relevant evidence, or information on the accident which can assist with the investigation.
“We would like to point out that investigations are currently ongoing and conjecture at this stage is detrimental to the process. As a point to note, Accident Investigation is in phases and all procedures are performed in accordance with the Civil Aviation (Investigation of Air Accidents and Incidents) Regulations 2019 and the guidance of ICAO Annex 13. At this instance and in line with the phases of accident investigation processes, we are at the stage of evidence gathering,” he added.
He therefore implored the press and the public to trust AIB to be thorough and transparent in its investigation and await the formal report of findings and recommendations, which he said would be released after the conclusion of investigation.