Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Air crashes and Regulators’ Dilemma

The October 3, 2013 crash of Associated Airline plane in Lagos which claimed about 15 lives out of the 20 on board has diminished the great works the regulatory agencies have been doing to make Nigeria’s airspace safe. If the truth must be told, the Federal Ministry of Aviation has been trying to do the needful to ensure international best practices in the sector. Since the ill-fated Dana plane crash of June 3, 2012 in Lagos, the aviation ministry and agencies under it have been intensifying effort to enforce compliance with policies and procedures guiding the operations of the airlines. Not only that, many of the airports dotting the Nigerian landscape has been receiving facelift with the Akanu Ibiam Airport in Enugu recently upgraded to international status.

Aviation experts are wont to saying that the sector is the most regulated of all the means of transportation. Unfortunately, in spite of the perceived strict regulations, air crashes is gradually becoming a perennial event in Nigeria. What is missing? From what has been in the public domain since the latest mishap, it would seem some of the airlines have been cooking the books and doctoring their certifications. Everything looks good on paper – maintenance done as at when due, pilots well trained, etc. However, in reality, those documentations may have been forged. There is insinuation that the crashed Associated Airplane may not have valid insurance. Last Friday, a Commissioner with the Accident Investigation Bureau, Capt. Muktar Usman revealed that information gotten from the black box retrieved from the crashed plane showed that the pilots ignored the automated warning from the onboard computer voice, alerting them of a possible problem with the aircraft flaps and right engine. Should this claim be true, the competence of the pilots who flew the plane is in doubt.

There are allegations that pilots and engineers in some airlines are being owned salaries and allowances and as such may not be in good frame of mind to perform their delicate duties. This is aside the accusation that some spare parts used in the repair of some planes may be obsolete. I am really amazed that airlines are still cutting corners despite the multi-billion Naira aviation intervention fund made available to bailout airlines operating in Nigeria. The regulatory authorities need to do more to sanitise the ailing sector.