Tuesday 18 December 2012

The Nigerian Navy Helicopter NN 07 Crash: The Odds Are Against Us


The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCON, has ordered a probe into the remote and immediate cause of the crash of the ill-fated Nigerian Navy Helicopter NN07. The President also called for “transparency and openness in the process”.

In keeping with the directive, and to buy the confidence of Nigerians and Nigerian airspace users, the Nigerian Navy immediately constituted a probe panel made up of aircraft investigation specialists from Augusta Westland, the manufacturer of the crashed helicopter and other aviation regulatory agencies as provided by existing regulations.

On their part, the Governors of the thirty-six States of the Federation under the auspices of Governors’ Forum emerged from their emergency meeting in Port Harcourt reiterating their resolve to hire a consultant to be part of the investigation, at the same time calling for thoroughness and transparency in the investigation process.

The House of Representatives in a statement by its Chairperson of Committee on Aviation, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (PDP Abia) said that the Committee would conduct a holistic investigation into the crash in liaison with the military authorities. It would focus mainly on the technical fitness of the aircraft, as it has invited experts from Italy, the place of purchase of the aircraft to join the probe.

The Nigerian Navy authority through Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor, Chief of Training and Operations of the Navy upheld that all naval helicopters including the crashed NN07, were properly maintained and routinely serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, as the last maintenance on the crashed helicopter was on the 10th of November 2012.

In his words, “Nigerian Navy pilots are very experienced. In fact, the captain in command has flown over 800 hours. The co-pilot had flown over 300 hours. All our pilots are trained in the best aviation institutions all over the world.

“Additionally, spare parts for the helicopters are obtained directly from the manufacturers (Augusta Westland) or its approved maintenance centers worldwide,’’ he maintained. The helicopter, the Naval Admiral pointed out, was procured in 2004 from the manufacturer directly.

Contrary to the expectations of many Nigerians that the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NACC) have something to tell them concerning the crash, both agencies have recently expressed their handicapped to investigate military aircraft crashes. AIB pointing out that military crashes are not part of its statutory brief as it is only mandated to unearth crashes in the civil aviation.

On its part, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) observed that military aviation is shielded from its purview.

What role then will the consultant promised by the Governors’ Forum play? Or, is the consultant going to be military? Does the President actually authorize the use of the ill-fated helicopter NN07 to convey civilians? How many probe panels are commissioned and how many reports are Nigerians expecting? Is the military open to allow for independent investigation into the one-crash-too-many of Saturday, 15th December, 2012? Those responsible for the investigation should as a matter of priority do a thorough job and be transparent as the President demanded. While the military will like to keep the confidentiality of the total crash, Nigerians deserve to know both the remote and immediate cause of this national disaster. The death of these six great Nigerians in their prime age should provide solutions and bring a stop to fatal plane crashes in Nigeria. Aviation accidents are caused, and therefore, can be controlled when their causes are identified and understood. To sustain a constant safety consciousness day in and day out, year in and year out, against the very unlikely possibility of aviation accident, calls for strong and abiding motivation. In must Nigerians in the aviation industry there is insufficient motivation to live safely, work safely, act safely and fly safely. We lack sense of self preservation. Oh, Nigeria, care about safety and security of your people. “Number is power, quality is wisdom”.

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