Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Odua
Three days after a tragic crash involving an Associated Airlines plane killed 14 people in Lagos, the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority on Sunday night, announced the suspension of Dana Air’s operations nationwide.
The decision to suspend Dana’s operations came 24 hours after the NCAA grounded the operations of Associated Airlines, whose Embraer 120 plane crashed near a fuel depot two minutes after takeoff at the Lagos airport, leaving only six survivors.
The charter plane was conveying the remains of a former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, to Akure for interment. It also had on board 20 people, including officials of the state government, family members and friends of Agagu.
Also, 24 hours after the Associated Airlines crash, another major air disaster was averted when a Kabo Airlines’ Boeing 747 plane carrying 512 pilgrims had a near-crash at the Sokoto airport with deflated tyres, damaging the airport’s Instrument Landing System.
The Coordinating General Manager, Corporate Communications, Aviation Parastatals, Mr. Yakubu Dati, confirmed to our correspondent on Sunday night that the government had suspended the operations of Dana Air nationwide.
Dati said the decision was to allow the regulatory agency “conduct an operational audit” on the carrier and its planes.
The latest suspension of Dana’s operations made it the third time the NCAA would be grounding the carrier over safety and other related issues.
On March 17, 2013, the government suspended the operations of Dana in order to “resolve certain safety issues,” according to the NCAA.
Some days later, the government lifted the suspension thus clearing the carrier to resume operations.
The March 17 suspension came nearly three months after the airline resumed operations following a seven-month suspension after its Boeing MD-83 crashed in Lagos, killing 163 people
The government had on June 5, 2012 revoked the operational licence of Dana, two days after the crash in Iju-Ishaga, Lagos.
The government had also at a time directed Dana to pay compensations to the families of all the victims of the June 3, 2012 crash or risk severe sanctions.
It is unclear whether the latest suspension of the airline’s operation is related to the issue of payment of compensation or whether the NCAA is having issues with it on the safety condition of its planes.
The Associated Airlines’ crash in Lagos and the Kabo Airlines’ averted crash in Sokoto have combined to raise tension in the sector as industry observers are beginning to raise doubts about the operational condition of planes flying in the country.
The flying public is also worried that the regulatory authority is not living up to its task.
Meanwhile, the Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau has announced the commencement of investigations into the causes of the crash of an Associated Airlines flight on Thursday, and the near-crash of a Kabo Air plane on Saturday.
A statement from the agency on Sunday confirmed that the readout of the recordings of the Associated Airlines’ flight recorders had started.
The statement signed by the Commissioner, AIB, Capt. Muktar Usman, said, “We have commenced investigation into the crash of the Embraer 120 ER aircraft marked 5N-BJY belonging to Associated Aviation Limited.
“Flight recorders of the ill-fated aircraft have been recovered and will be downloaded at the Bureau’s newly installed flight laboratory at its Abuja headquarters. The readout of the recorders has commenced.”
The statement added that of the 20 passengers on board the aircraft, there were only six survivors as of Saturday.
Associated Aviation Limited is a Nigerian registered domestic airline, which operates chartered and scheduled flights in the country.
In a separate statement, the AIB also said investigations had commenced into the incident involving a Kabo Air B747 plane, which occurred in Sokoto on Friday.
The aircraft, carrying Saudi Arabia-bound pilgrims, was believed to have burst tyres on landing.
“The AIB investigators have been dispatched to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident to determine the probable cause. The investigation is not to apportion blame or liability, but to prevent future re-currence of similar incidents and improve air safety through safety recommendations,” the statement explained.
It added that the AIB was charged with the responsibility of investigating aircraft accidents and serious incidents within the country, and where Nigeria’s interest was represented.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Journalists has described as tragic and unfortunate the crash of the Associated Airlines’ plane.
The union, in a statement by its Vice-President, B Zone, Mr. Dele Atunbi, in Abuja, commiserated with the government and the people of Ondo State over the tragedy that claimed the lives of four state functionaries.
Also, a cleric, Pastor Akeem Idoniboye, has attributed the high casualty figure recorded in the ill-fated plane crash in Lagos to the failure of the National Emergency Management Agency to handle emergency situations.
Idoniboye, who spoke during a sermon at the Glorious Destiny Christian Centre on Sunday, noted that some of the victims, who were already out of the plane, were killed by the explosion after the crash and before help could reach them.