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*Airline Operators Petition National Assembly On Proposed Public Hearing/Investigation of Dana/Allied Plane Crashes
By Lateef Lawal
The Joint National Assembly Committee on Aviation's planned public hearing/investigation of the Dana and Allied Air plane crashes has come under attack by members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON). The Joint Committee sitting which is expected to commence from June 19th - 22nd, 2012 is to investigate the cause(s) of the Dana airline's accident in Lagos and that of Allied Airline Cargo plane crash in Ghana. In a petition sent to the Chairman of the Committee by the Secretary General of AON, Captain Mohammed Joji and copies sent to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate President, David Mark, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Tambuwal and other principal officers of the National Assembly, the airline operators noted that it would be illogical to conduct any public hearing or investigation when the body statutorily charged with that responsibility-Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) was yet to conclude its investigation. In addition, members of the association noted that in any aircraft accident all over the world, public hearing into aircraft accident are not held in public because of its volatility due to loss of lives in such an accident as in the present circumstance, as it could heat up the polity. The full text of the petition is reproduced below:
The Chairman, Senate and House of Representatives Join Committee on Aviation, National Assembly Complex, Garki, Abuja.
REF: PUBLIC HEARING ON THE CRASH OF DANA AND ALLIED AIRLINES.
We read on a National Daily that the Joint Committee will commence a Four Day Public Hearing from June 19th¡V 22nd, 2012 as part of Investigation into the Crash of DANA Airline¡¦s Flight in Lagos and a Nigerian Cargo Aircraft, Allied Airline in Ghana. Furthermore, you also asked that we should submit a memorandum detailing all the information we have on the Crash to the Secretariat of the Joint Committee. First of all, in our Press Conference (AON) of Friday 7th June, 2012 in Lagos where we briefed the Press to act responsibly in reporting this fatal accident, and not to engaged in innuendos and shenanigans prior to the outcome of the investigation. We send our condolence to the families and friends of the briefed. Secondly, we believed that it is the Constitutional right of the Legislators to call for public hearing, but under the circumstances where even the preliminary report of the Accident is not concluded, it is ill-time and ill-conceived to discuss the remote causes of the Accident. Thirdly, it is also inappropriate to discuss this very accident at this material time, where the polity in the country is already overheated. Power of the Commissioner to Investigate Accidents and Incidents The Civil Aviation Act of 2006 signed by the Members of Parliament on the 9th and 14th November, 2006 and endorsed by Mr. President on the 14th November, 2006, specifically part (viii), para. 29, clearly gave powers to the Commissioner of Accident to Investigate Accidents/Incidents and report directly to Mr. President through the Minister of Aviation before any pronouncement is made over any accident. Any parallel investigation which can prejudice the outcome of the on-going investigation is against the ICAO ¡V Convention of Accident Investigation particularly ICAO Annex 13 which dealt with Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation. Furthermore, prior to the outcome of the initial stage of investigation,communications between the pilot and the control tower cannot be divulged.
Jamboree of Public Opinion
We have read all sorts of jamboree by some members of the public who claimed to have knowledge of Aviation Industry, perhaps some of them may not have even been a passenger in any Aircraft all their life. If this is allowed to continue it will put the Aviation Industry in bad light.
Relative Safety of our Aviation Industry
Apart from the three successive accidents which occurred between 2005 and 2006 and claimed the lives of 312 people, we have had a relatively accident free Aviation Industry. The industry has achieved a lot in terms of safety and development particularly, the achievement of the past twelve months, the achievement of FAA category one (1), which classified Nigeria as one of the safest Aviation Industry in the world given our level of activities. It must be remembered that, there are not more than 9 African countries from the 62 African countries which was granted the category 1 status. The Domestication of Cape Town Convention which is a great achievement convinced Foreign Investors to invest in newer Private Aircraft flying within our Airspace.
Level of Activities in the Nigeria Airspace
Nigeria is a country of 158,259,000 people. All the other 16 West African Countries has a population of 150,456,000. This is less than the Nigeria Population. Gambia is a country less than the area of Lagos State, and its population is less than Ikeja Local Government. Nigeria has the largest domestic network in Africa and flies about 700 flights daily including helicopter flights to/from the oil platforms. All the Airlines in Nigeria are privately owned. Ethiopia is one of the most successful airline in Africa has barely half the population of Nigeria, its domestic network is negligible compared to Nigeria. The entire commercial accident in the Nigeria Aviation since the establishment of West African Air Transport in council following a court order No. 682 of the Buckingham Palace by the Kings Most Excellent Majesty ¡V King George VI (father of the present Queen of England) is less the monthly accident on the Nigerian road. Other World Accident Statistics 1. On the 27th March, 1977 a Ground Collision at Tenerife occurred between Pan Am B747 ¡V 1000 Reg. No. 736PA and KLM B747 ¡V 100, killing 664 passengers on the spot. The two Aircraft are carrying holiday people. Several families, grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren lost their lives. In most of these cases, some entire family lost their lives. The accident was due to the negligent of the KLM Captain not obeying the Air Traffic Controllers¡¦ Directive. Investigation was peacefully conducted by both countries; USA/Netherland did not conduct any public hearing prior to the final accident report. 2. On the 2nd September, 1998, a Swiss Air MD-11, Reg.: HB ¡V IWF, a new Aircraft suffered cockpit fire. The Aircraft was flying from New York to Geneva, declared an emergency and diverted to Halifax in Canada, 5nautical miles(NM) to the Airport, the Aircraft crash off the coast of Nova Scotia killing all 229 people on board. Normal investigation was carried out, there was no public hearing prior to the final outcome of the investigation. 3. On the 17th January, 2008, A British Airways Boeing 777 ¡V 200, Reg. No:G ¡V YMMM, a factory new Aircraft, lost both engines and crashed just inside the perimeter of Heathrow Airport besides the runway on a soft grass. The 152 passengers and crew escaped death with minor injuries. Catastrophe was averted by share act of God. Were the Aircraft crashed one(1) minute earlier, it could have crashed in Central London. A political catastrophe was averted by share act of God. Investigation was allowed to be carried out in three stages by the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). These stages include; initial report,subsequent update and special bulleting published 4 months after for public interest. Grounding of an Airline at the Aftermath of an Accident Grounding an airline at the aftermath of a crash is inappropriate. By shutting down the operation of an airline will automatically shut-down the other serviceable Aircraft within the Airline fleet. Take for example, United/Continental Airline with; „« 704 Aircraft „« A fleet value of $13.9 billion „« Employ 230,000 people „« With 167 Aircraft on order. Shutting down such Airline in the aftermath of accident, will spell doom to the USA Economy. That is why as long as other Aircraft are still serviceable,airlines are allowed to operate at the aftermath of an accident.
In any Aircraft accident, which involves loss of lives, Emotion is often very high. This is why a thorough investigation was often carried out before any public debate. In accordance with established International arrangements, example of the British Airways accidents; The National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB)of the USA, representing the State of Design and Manufacture of the Aircraft,the NTSB accredited representative is supported by a team which includes additional investigation from the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) (the equivalent of our NCAA) and Boeing. Rolls ¡V Royce, the Engine Manufacturer is also participating fully in the investigation. British Airways, the Operator is cooperating fully with the investigation and providing expertise as required. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency(EASA) are being kept informed of developments. The above explanation, is the world standard of investigating an accidents which is applicable to all the 191 ICAO member states. You will notice that throughout the period of such investigation, no any member of the public including the British Parliament and the House of Lords participated in the investigation. They all waited for the outcome of the investigation. Why do we choose to do everything differently for political expediency, which will ultimately overheat the polity? Kindly allow the investigation to take its normal course before calling for any public hearing which you have the Constitutional right to do so. ICAO clearly stipulates that; the sole objective of the investigation of an accident or serious incident shall be the prevention of accidents and incidents and it shall not be the purpose of such an investigation to apportion blame or liability.
Lateef Lawal (NigerianAviationNews)
Photo Above: An airborne Dana plane
Photo Above: Nigeria Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah
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