The final report of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) on the tragic Dana air crash of June 3, 2012 was released last week. All the 153 passengers in the aircraft were killed, in addition to six crew members, and six persons on the ground when the aircraft crashed into a furniture works and printing press building in Iju-Ishaga, a suburb of Lagos. It is the second deadliest air crash on Nigerian soil. The twin-engine plane was on a scheduled flight from Abuja to Lagos when its crew reported engine trouble and declared an emergency as one of its engines failed 17 minutes into the flight. On the final approach, the second engine also lost power and failed to respond to the throttle, and the demand for increased power to sustain the aircraft. The plane was built in 1990 and had been used by two airlines before its acquisition by Dana Air in 2009.
The AIB Commissioner, Mr. Akin Olateru, who issued the 210-page report at the organisation’s Lagos office, stated that the crash was caused by pilot error and mechanical failures. The pilot was said to have acted inappropriately, not only in his use of the checklist but also in the crew’s inability to appreciate the severity of the power-related problems of the plane, which led to its failure to land the MD-83 aircraft at the nearest suitable airfield or return to the airport of departure following the failure of the first engine. Returning to Abuja would have taken only 20 minutes but the pilot, Capt. Peter Waxtan, braved the risk of getting to Lagos.
The AIB noted that “the lack of situation awareness, inappropriate decision-making and poor airmanship” led to the tragedy. The Bureau recalled that it had previously issued four safety recommendations in its preliminary report published on September 5, 2012, some of which dealt with the Dana Airline which, it noted, were accepted and closed. One was on the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and another on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Mr. Olateru explained why the report took five years, and how he met 37 uncompleted reports when he took over the bureau a few months ago. That is a sad commentary on the management of the nation’s civil aviation. Yet, it is conventional wisdom that the knowledge of the cause of an air crash goes a long way to prevent similar cases in the future. In other words, the need to get the report of an accident investigation at the earliest possible time is not academic because it could actually save lives by preventing similar crashes.
We urge officials in various aviation organisations to study the AIB report and learn lessons that could help to avert similar crashes in future. We cannot over-emphasise the need to ensure strict compliance with air safety regulations, proper maintenance of aircraft and the fitness and wellbeing of pilots. Both the physical and psychological states of pilots are crucial in flights, in addition to watching their working hours to ensure that they are not physically or mentally exhausted.
Those saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the air-worthiness of planes and the functionality of airport safety installations should be uncompromising in their standards and the enforcement of the rules and regulations. It is only by doing this that we can improve air safety and ensure that those who died in Dana Airline Flight 992 did not die in vain.