The Nigerian Accident and Investigation Bureau (AIB) yesterday, commenced investigations to unravel possible causes of the accident involving Dana Air flight 9J0363 on Tuesday night on the runway of the Port Harcourt International Airport in Rivers State.
This comes as some concerned stakeholders in the industry have alleged complicity on the part of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in the accident.
A top official of one of the local airlines told Daily Sun that “the poor state of infrastructure at the Port Harcourt International Airport has been a source of worry for airline operators in the last five years.
“Those who own the Port Harcourt airport (FAAN) and those who regulate its operations (NCAA) should be held fully responsible for the Dana Air runway incident. They should explain to Nigerians what they have been doing with the billions of naira earmarked for the airport rehabilitation because the accident simply showed that the runway was faulty as at the time the aircraft landed under heavy downpour. There is every reason to conclude that the runway can no longer drain water from the inbuilt outlets, which rendered its surface slippery, hence the skidding off by the aircraft. That cannot happen at the Lagos or Abuja airports runway. The Port Harcourt airport is in a mess and people who manage and regulate its activities should be called to account for their actions and inaction. Airline owners are certainly not happy with this accident,” said the official who preferred not to be named.
Another industry source told Daily Sun that “at the moment, all the aviation agencies should be queried to ascertain whether NCAA has been carrying out due diligence on the said aircraft and its crew or whether FAAN was up to date in the provision of the required infrastructure for safe operations in Port Harcourt Airport? Has the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) provided the necessary aircraft Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) for safe operations at the Port Harcourt airport during inclement weather? Was the weather report at the time of incident given by NIMET to the pilot up to date and correct,” said the source, who is a senior official with NCAA.
Meanwhile, spokesman for AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, however, told aviation reporters that AIB had dispatched a team of aircraft engineers, pilots and accident investigators to the scene of the accident in Port Harcourt.
He said the team was headed by Captain Dayyabu Danraka, who is AIB’s Director of Operations.
“The team of investigators have arrived Port Harcourt airport and they have commenced their work,” Oketunbi said. The team will examine the wreckage of the aircraft, speak with the pilots, crew, regulatory and airport officials.
Spokesman for the Aviation Round Table (ART), Mr. Olu Ohunayo, told Daily Sun that “all agencies responsible for all safety activities at the Port Harcourt airport should come clean by responding accurately and timely to the investigators.
“The airline principally should submit themselves and their books to the appropriate authorities. It’s too early to apportion blame while the focus should be the avoidance of a recurrence,” he added.
The Port Harcourt Airport in recent years has been ranked as the worst airport in the world. Its airside and terminal buildings have remained an eyesore to passengers while airline owners have kept drawing attention of regulatory agencies to the inherent risks of flying into the airport.
Recall that on December 10, 2005, the absence of wind sheer facilities had led to the crash of a Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 from Abuja to Port Harcourt on landing on the same runway of the airport. Only two of 110 persons on board survived the crash.
Spokeswoman for FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, told aviation reporters late Tuesday that the Dana Air incident was suspected to have been caused by a heavy rain, which was accompanied by strong wind and storm in Port Harcourt. It was a position corroborated by the Dana Air spokesman, Kingsley Ezenwa, who said, “on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, one our aircraft (9J0363) operating Abuja-PHC skidded off the runway at the Port Harcourt International Airport as a result of very stormy weather and severe winds upon landing.”