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Dana Air’s near accident

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LAST  Wednesday, the  Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) dispatched two of its investigators to the Port Harcourt International Airport in Rivers State to commence investigation into the Dana Air plane incident at the airport. The previous day, a Dana Air aircraft which was flying from Abuja to Port Harcourt Airport had overshot the runway. Happily, however, all the passengers on board and the crew were safely evacuated from the aircraft. In her reaction, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, stated that the incident could have been caused by a heavy rain accompanied by strong wind and storm in the Rivers State capital. Dana Air also toed the same path.

However, the General Manager, Public Affairs, AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, was quoted as saying that the accident investigators were sent to the accident scene in order to ensure that vital evidence was not tampered with. According to him, in keeping with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) recommended procedure, preliminary report regarding the cause of the incident could not be released by the bureau until the investigation was done. This is, we believe, the way to go.

On February 7, the door of an aircraft belonging to the airline fell off upon landing at the Abuja airport. In its reaction, the airline surmised that the door must have fallen off because it was tampered with.  As noted by Kingsley Ezenwa, spokesperson of Dana Air, the door never shook since the aircraft was “airbone and fully pressurised.” Nigerians would however recall that on June 3, 2012, a Dana Air flight crashed into a building in Iju-Ishaga neighbourhood in Lagos State, killing all the 153 people on board and 10 more people on the ground. That crash was reportedly the second deadliest on Nigerian soil, behind only the Kano air disaster of 1973. Every effort must be made to prevent a recurrence.

To be sure, it is not being suggested here that Dana Air is prone to accidents or that its failure and not the alleged inclement weather condition was responsible for the latest incident at the Port Harcourt Airport. There is as yet no valid reasons for coming to such a conclusion. In any case, it is fair to assume that, as a business, the airline could not have deliberately taken any actions capable of tarnishing its credibility. Our concern is that the latest incident could have claimed lives and, in any case, Nigerians deserve to know what really went wrong.

A thorough investigation is, more than ever, needed to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident. The investigation should unravel whether the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) provided the necessary instrument landing systems for safe operations during inclement weather and whether the weather report given by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) at the time of the incident was accurate and up to date. It must further establish whether or not the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) ensured due diligence on the aircraft and crew, and whether FAAN itself was up to date in the provision of the required infrastructure for safe operations in Port Harcourt Airport and indeed elsewhere.

On a general note, however, we urge the Ministry of Transport to ensure at all times that safety standards are adhered to by all the airlines operating in the country. Past air crashes cost the nation too dearly and the nation surely needs to do all it can to ensure that avoidable tragedies in air transport are completely eliminated.

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