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Delayed crash reports jeopardise accident mitigation

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Delayed crash reports jeopardise accident mitigation

In Nigeria, crash reports take eternity to be released long after the incidents have been probed. These delays have huge implications on the overall interest of aviation in the country, WOLE SHADARE reports

Flying gets reliable

Flying in a jetliner is extraordinarily safe: There have been no fatal crashes on a U.S. scheduled airline in the past seven years, an astounding record considering that more than 30,000 flights take off everyday. How did flying get so reliable? In part, it is because previous accidents triggered crucial safety improvements via recommendations that helped in no small measure to make flying safe.

Aviation safety is improving all over the world -including Africa and very fast. For over four years now, Nigeria has maintained high safety record. This can be attributed to the race by airlines to be IOSA compliant; a situation the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has made mandatory for airlines to comply with.

The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) programme is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.

The IOSA audit creates a standard that is comparable on a worldwide basis, enabling and maximising the joint use of audit reports.

This has saved the industry over 6400 redundant audits and continues to lead to extensive cost-savings for IOSA participating airlines. All IATA members are IOSA registered and must remain registered to maintain IATA membership.

Jolted to action

The major drive to end air crashes in Nigeria was ignited by the tragic accidents of 2005 and 2006 when the country and the world became seriously concerned by avoidable accidents, which many wished should never happened.

The Sosoliso Flight 1145 in Port Harcourt on December 10, 2005 with 108 fatalities who were largely children, ADC Airlines Flight 53 in Abuja where prominent Nigerians died on October 29, 2006 with 97 fatalities out of 110 on board and the Bellview Airlines Flight 210 on October 22, 2005, where all 117 souls on board were lost at Lisa, Ogun State of Nigeria were eye opener on the poor safety record of airlines in the sector.

Former Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren began systematic and courageous steps to reposition the sector and made safety his mantra. In no time, the industry witnessed a sharp turnaround for the better. The NCAA ever since has followed the template set up by Demuren to make the industry safer.

These tragedies left so much pain in the hearts of Nigerians and cast Nigeria’s airspace as one of the most dangerous in Africa, as the continent has the uncomplimentary record as the most accident-prone in the world.

Correcting anomalies

The desire to correct these anomalies prompted the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to pick interest in Nigeria.

The Dana Air Flight 992 crashed on June 3, 2012 with about 155 fatalities, including 153 souls on-board and two on ground that NCAA was aroused to take a critical decision of making it compulsory that Nigerian airlines must become IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certified before they would be allowed to continue to operate.

But this was not just the decision of Nigeria; it was the decision of African states that met shortly in Abuja after the Dana Air crash. Although the deadline given for the compulsory certification has not been met, IATA has guided Nigerian airlines to meet IOSA condition and improve their operational safety.

Also, NCAA has incorporated IOSA as compulsory for Nigerian airlines, which they must obtain at certain stage before they could be allowed to continue to operate. IATA is supporting every commercial Nigerian airline to go through the IOSA programme and it has shown both financial and technical commitment to ensure this objective is actualised.

Reports gather dust

Delayed reports of accidents have done so much damage to the system because the lesson that must have been learnt becomes no longer useful – especially when the airline or operator of the airplane is extinct or has ceased to operate.

One can imagine the magnitude of the usefulness of a report to an airline if it is released few weeks after the incident or accident.

Many of the reports are released years after the accidents, making it no longer totally useful to the sector or the operator like the case of the crash of Gitto Construction Company Bells Helicopter, which occurred in 2009 but had its report released just last Wednesday. More worrisome is the fact that the company has gone into extinction.

Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) Socata TMB 850 aircraft with registration 5N-BZA crashed in Kaduna on May 21, 2013. The report was also released last week.

The one involving an aircraft belonging to International Aviation College (IAC), which occurred on August 18, 2014 was equally released last week just like the Aero Contractor’s serious incident involving a B737-500 with registration number 5N-BLE, which occurred at flight level 330 feet was released the same day.

Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru, attributed the agency’s inability to publish over 35 air accident investigation reports and train its staff to lack of funds.

He was particularly worried that delay in releasing the reports long after they had been investigated is not too good for the sector.

Speaking in Lagos recently in the wake of the heat generated by the recent approval of five per cent of the revenue accruing from Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) for the agency, which is yet to be adhered to, Olateru also attributed AIB’s inability to release the reports on zero training of accident investigators since 2013.

Developing human capacity

Olateru said the agency needed to develop human capacity to compete with the others hence its request to the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika for five per cent of the revenue accruing from TSC warehoused 100 per cent by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

The agency “only gets a meagre 3 per cent of the revenue from the 5 per cent ticket sales charge and the cargo sales charge (TSC/CSC) collected on behalf of the parastatals by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) while other agencies get more.

Expert’s perspective

Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd) endorsed the position of Olateru on delayed release of accident reports.

He stated that the situation is not good for the system, reiterating that the lessons that should be learnt from crashes are lost if the reports stating recommendations are not released.

His words, “When you are writing a report, there are safety recommendations that must be sent out to the airline, country of aircraft manufacture, country of operation and others that are concerned with the totality of the airline operations. But when the reports are unnecessarily delayed, we lose the whole essence of what had been investigated.”

Last line

Like every accident investigative body, the country’s AIB had done excellently well in investigating plane crashes that had occurred many years ago, but what is very worrisome is allowing the reports of their investigations to gather dust without timely release to the public.

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