Saturday, 5 October 2013

How Plane Went Down –Traffic Controller

The airworthiness of the Associsted Airlines plane that crashed in Lagos on Thursday has come under close security folowing disclosures that it last operated flights in August this year.
The relevant agencies, it was gathered on Friday, have started asking questions on who certified the plane to fly the day it crashed after it had remained on ground for about six weeks.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) at a press conference on Friday refused to speak on the status of the aircraft and its certification for the flight.
NCAA and the management of the airline at the  press conference gave conflicting reports on the records of the crashed plane.

While the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the airline, Alhaji Taiwo Raji, said that the airline last operated a flight on August 30, 2013, NCAA record indicated that the airline last operated flights on August 22, 2013 contrary to the airline’s record.
Briefing journalists Friday on the update of the crash, the Director of Consumer Protection Unit, Alhaji Adamu Abdulahi, who spoke on behalf of the Director-General of NCAA, stated that there are seven survivors currently receiving medical attention at different hospitals in Lagos, and that the airline holds a subsisting Air Operators Certificate (AOC) and that it currently conducts only chartered operations.
Abdulahi, who is the acting DG of the NCAA, added that the airline has a current Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A), which expires on October 22, 2013, and that the agency’s records show that the airline has an insurance policy that subsists till June 14, 2014.
“The EMB120 ER 5N-BJY aircraft with 30 passenger capacity was manufactured in Brazil and registered in Nigeria on May 22, 2007. Before the ill-fated flight, the airline last operated the EMB120ER 5N –BYJ aircraft on a charter flight on August 22, 2013,” Abdulahi said.
He stated that the airplane was certified airworthy by one of the airline’s aircraft maintenance engineers whose identity was not mentioned prior to departure and who, according to him, was also on board the crashed plane.
The acting DG, however, did not entertain journalists’ questions bordering on the crash, saying that if the NCAA fielded questions on the crash, it would amount to acting the judge in its own case.
AN Air Traffic Controller at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos has revealed how the ill-fated Associated Airlines Embraer 120 plane that conveyed the remains of the late former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Agagu, crashed Thursday morning.
The graphic details given by the traffic controller suggested that the aircraft had a technical fault.
Speaking under the condition of anonymity, the traffic controller who spoke to Saturday Tribune said a female controller gave the final clearance to the ill-fated plane, but that when the Control Tower cleared it for take-off, it did not lift up from the expected link, a situation that made her take interest in the plane.
“The aircraft was supposed to have lifted up within links 4 and 5. She (the authorizing controller) was looking at the aircraft. It crossed links 4, 5 and 6 before it managed to lift up. As she was watching the aircraft lift up, the lift-up was not as expected.
“Then, all of a sudden, she said she saw the aircraft turning right, probably to avoid the congested area and at that time, she knew there was a problem with the airplane. She said she was thinking that the aircraft wanted to make an air return land at the airport.
“In that right turn, she explained that she saw the plane nose-diving. As the airplane was nose-diving, she notified the relevant agencies. All these happened in less than three minutes.”
Information gathered from a reliable source revealed that the plane on take-off lost its left engine, which made the pilot to decide to make an air return, but in the process crashed, killing 13 of its 20 passengers. Seven others, including the only son of the late Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Feyi Agagu, were rescued, though with severe injuries.
Information gathered by Saturday Tribune on Friday, however, put a question mark on the airworthiness status of the plane.
When asked to comment on the airworthiness status of the airline, the former Assistant Secretary-General of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Alhaji Muhammed Tukur, who could not hide his anger towards what he called the unlawful interference of the Ministry of Aviation in the running of the NCAA, blamed the crash and problems confronting the domestic airlines on the too much pressure government is mounting on them.
Tukur raised the alarm over the rate at which the Federal Government, through the various aviation agencies, is allegedly stifling the domestic carriers through multiple taxation the agencies are slamming on them. He said this was enough to force any of the airlines to cut corners to remain in business.
He cited the recent introduction of new tariff charges by the NCAA, which compels domestic carriers to henceforth pay $3,000 on each take-off while their foreign counterparts are to pay $4,000.
Tukur described the charges as outrageous coming at a time when the domestic airlines are already grappling with financial challenges.
He also took a swipe at the aviation agencies led by the Aviation Ministry for neglecting safety for money-making ventures.
An example of government’s preference for money against safety and standard maintenance, Tukur said, was the recent almost 500 per cent increase in the charges being paid by each operator for the crew vehicle, which normally takes the crew members of any flight to the tarmac.
According to Tukur, each operator was paying between N10, 000 and N15, 000, which was subsequently increased to N50,000. As if this was not enough, the former AON secretary said the levy had just been increased to N250,000.
While calling on the Minister of Aviation to hands off the affairs of the regulatory agency by not interfering in its safety oversight functions, Tukur warned that “if government continues to put pressure on the airlines, there is the possibility to cut corners. The aviation ministry should allow the aviation industry regulator to comply with the 2006 Civil Aviation Act, because the new act will only cause distraction.”
When asked to react to the allegation that the crashed plane had remained for long on the ground, Tukur said that people should allow the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to carry out and conclude its investigations into the cause of the crash.
Apart from Tukur, most people present at the crash site, including some workers in the various agencies and airport users, condemned the government for the spate of crashes in the country.
They urged government to concentrate its energy on empowering the regulatory body to give priority to standard maintenance rather than focusing on collecting different taxes from the carriers.
While others are calling on government to actually investigate the status of the ill-fated aircraft, they also called for the probe of the official that certified the plane for take-off.
Key players in the industry had before now urged government to call for the overall audit of the domestic airlines with particular mention of their financial books in view of the huge indebtedness of the airlines.
Many of the airlines are said to owe even workers’ salaries and other service providers.
Only last week, the air traffic controllers threatened to withdraw services from the airlines due to the huge debt they owed the various aviation agencies, including oil marketers, handling companies and banks.
Many stakeholders approached for reactions promised to speak after the AIB would have concluded its investigations, even as they accused the government of failing to learn its lessons after the Dana Air crash of June 3rd, 2013 crash which killed over 153 people on board and on the ground.
Also, the Associated Aviation Services Limited aircraft in Lagos, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) yesterday declared that it would do the readout of one of the Black Boxes recovered from the crash site next week.
AIB said plans were in full swing to carry out the read-out of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) in its facilities in Abuja.
A source in AIB said the decoding and readout would be carried out in the presence of the airline’s representatives and other relevant authorities in the industry.
With the decoding of the CVR, the probable cause of the crash will be detected. This is the first time the agency will be carrying out such decoding in its recently constructed facilities.
The agency was not specific on the actual date the readout would be carried out in Abuja, but the source said it would not exceed next week.

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