Dissecting accident reports on Dana, others

The recent crash reports released by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has elicited reactions and issues especially on Dana Air crash, which AIB, the airline and stakeholders said was avoidable if the right things were done. WOLE SHADARE writes



So long a wait

The wait was long. Many had wanted to know what led to the crash of a Dana flight from Abuja to Lagos, which sad event occurred in the afternoon of Sunday, June 3, 2013 killing all passengers, crew onboard and about four people on ground.

Just last week, the AIB put all speculations as regards the causes of four accident reports released by the Commissioner, AIB, Akin Olateru. Olateru was appointed to head the agency and quickly released the reports many said had gathered dust on the shelf of the accident investigative body.

The Dana report stood out because of the huge number of casualties. The aircraft was just less than two minutes to touch down when disaster struck.

Dreams cut down in their prime

Indeed, it was a tale of dreams, which were aborted even before take-off. It was an epilogue of vision, which the crash victims never fulfilled. It was a chapter of ideas, which they never hatched. Painfully, it was a story of how companions and loved ones suddenly parted ways without opportunity to share the last moment together and exchange parting burden of hearts that still clog their thought.

It was a tale that triggered diverse issues. Such issues range from delayed compensation, which was attributed to double claims from the victims’ family members to low-key protests by those whose properties into which the aircraft crashed.

These issues no doubt triggered frustration that some of the victims’ family members expressed during an engagement with some journalists after the cenotaph were unveiled.

Wrong crew judgment

Explaining the cause of the Dana crash, it was clear that the crew did many things that were wrong leading to the accident. The report disclosed that one of the two engines of the aircraft, “engine number one lost power 17 minutes into the flight, and thereafter on final approach, engine number two lost power and failed to respond to throttle movement on demand for increased power to sustain the aircraft in its flight configuration.”

It added that lack of situation awareness, inappropriate decision making, and poor airmanship by the pilot led to the death of all souls on-board. Airmanship is the cornerstone of pilot competency, which the crew lacked.

It is the combination of knowledge, skills and attitude required to operate the ill-fated aircraft safely. The flight crew is the first and last line of defence against an aviation accident, putting aside catastrophic mechanical malfunction.

Other reports

Other reports were those involving OAS Helicopters (Nig.) Limited, which sad accident occurred at Oke-Oba Hill, Ikonifin, Osun State, on July 29, 2011. The other reports were those of Bristow Helicopters that crashed in 2013 inside the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

The final report released was that involving Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security with the registration number 5N-BKS, which occurred at Benin Airport, Edo State on July 15, 2012.

The AIB said that the pilot did not adhere to Visual Flight Rules of clear-of cloud and obstacles while maintaining ground contact at all times and this led to Controlled Flight into Terrain.

It also maintained that the pilot of the helicopter was not instrument rated and lacked route familiarisation, being a foreigner. These were clear cases of crew not adhering to ethics of their job according to stakeholders who spoke to our correspondent. In these situations, their lives were on the line as well. Unfortunately, many airlines place pressure on their pilots and crew that increase the likelihood of human error.

Airline’s negligence

Airline corporate negligence often leads to improperly trained or fatigued pilots flying planes, thus putting passengers’ lives at risk. The report also stated that the Dana crash could have been avoided if the pilot had performed professionally as expected of him. Olateru recalled that AIB in its preliminary reports had made eight safety recommendations, which were published at different times.

It should be noted that the accident was avoidable and purely caused by crew or pilot error. Pilot error, sometimes called cockpit error, is a term used to describe a decision, action or inaction by a pilot or crew of an aircraft determined to be a cause or contributing factor in an accident or incident.

Human factor

Accounting for the way human factor influence the actions of pilots is now considered standard practice by accident investigators when examining the chain of events that led to an accident. The same pattern of human error was instrumental to two other reports. AIB in the report insisted that the pilot of the OAS helicopter was not instrument rated and lacked of route familiarisation, being a foreigner.

Even commercial airline flights are not immune from these issues, with recent statistics calculating that at least 50 percent of major airline crashes are related to human factors.

Expert’s views

Capt. Muhammed Gbadamosi, a pilot of over 40 years of experience and a staff of the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways insisted that the crash may not be unconnected with insufficient fuel in the tank of the aircraft as at the time of the mishap. According to him, there was a gap between the report of AIB, which said that the crew reported a fuel endurance of three and half hours, which indicated about 8,000pounds and the claim of Dana Air management, which mentioned 26,000pounds of fuel in the belly of the aircraft before departing Abuja for Lagos.

He queried why an aircraft that was coming to land in Lagos, refuel at the same airport before embarking on another flight would carry 26,000 pounds of fuel, stressing that if the report of Dana Air management was to be followed, the fuel remaining in the aircraft would have consumed the entire environment and not the storey building the aircraft dropped on.

He said: “The point I am trying to make is that as they claimed they had 26,000 pounds of fuel in that aircraft and that aircraft had burnt about 7,500 pounds of the fuel from Abuja, before the crash, the inferno there would have been uncontrollable. There was no sign that there was fuel in the tank of the aeroplane because I was there and those things were not burning.

I have the pictures of the crash on my camera, which I will release when the need arises. “What I saw that caused the flame was the publishing company with a lot of books. Those books were the ones that were burning.

So, let’s try and find out the real reason for the crash. To my mind, that aeroplane did not have enough fuel to operate that flight and from a pilot point of view, there are situation where if you have limited fuel, during climb, if you don’t do certain things, you may have what they called fuel starvation to engine and that may cause some erratic performance of engine.

According to the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigations performed into air accidents, over 88 percent of all chartered plane crashes are attributed, at least in part, to pilot error. In private or general aviation, loss of aircraft control by the pilot is the number one cause of air crashes.

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