AIB detains Delta aircraft, crew for breach of Nigerian law

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Louis Ibah 

The Nigerian Accident and Investigation Bureau (AIB) says it has taken possession of Delta Airlines’ Flight DL 55, an Airbus 330-200 aircraft and also prevented its crew from leaving the country following a breach of Nigerian law.

AIB said Delta Air Lines, owners of the aircraft and the crew, failed to notify relevant regulatory authorities in Nigeria nor explained what led to the fire incident on one of the aircraft engines on the night of Tuesday forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Five Nigerians sustained serious injuries from the incident and are currently receiving treatment at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja. No life was, however, lost.

But commenting on the incident, Commissioner for AIB, Mr. Akin Olateru, who briefed journalists in Lagos, expressed disappointment with the management of Delta Air Lines for its disrespectful treatment of the Nigerian agency and the country’s civil aviation laws.  

Olateru said, “unfortunately, up until 3pm this afternoon (Wednesday), Delta Air Lines has refused to notify the Nigerian AIB as to this serious incident in accordance with the law of our country. But they have notified the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and as at 3pm today (Wednesday), there was still no notification from Delta Airlines.        

“We have an obligation to notify the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on this serious incident.  This is a serious incident and by law we are investigating it. There is what they call country of occurrence and Nigeria is a country of occurrence of this incident. Yes, Delta Air Lines is a US carrier, US operator, US registered aircraft, but there are certain state protocols, which have to be respected that gives right of investigation to the country of occurrence except the country of occurrence decides to cede that investigation to country of operator or any other country.

“I am disappointed in Delta Air Lines for not respecting our own nation and laws of the land. It is totally unacceptable, and we condemn it in its totality and I believe the way I see it, we are being undermined which is not acceptable. I have been in contact with my counterpart in US, Mr. Dennis Jones, Managing Director of NTSB. He agreed with me and he will make sure that Delta does the needful. So, we are expecting them.

“When you have this kind of situation, we take possession of the aircraft and nobody goes near it. The aircraft is under safety investigation. That is what is required by law but until they make a formal report, then we are expecting them.  

“I was made to understand that they have appointed two investigators to work with us and they should be arriving this afternoon, I was made to understand. This afternoon, we got information that their engineers want to work on the aeroplane and we made it clear to them that it is a no no. We told them that nobody should go near the aircraft. The best we can do is to safeguard it. Security people are guarding the aircraft.

“I have insisted that we must interview the crew. We need to know what happened. I got a call too that they want to travel and I told them they cannot leave. We have a responsibility. They are still in Nigeria. I have made it clear to them, they cannot go until we take their statement. We have an obligation under the law and we are here to defend that obligation. What Delta has done is to satisfy their own regulations and laws by reporting to their NTSB but failed to respect our own law and regulations,” Olateru added. 

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