‘Why AIB detains Delta Air plane in Lagos after near mishap’
From the perspective of an investigator, what happened?
On Tuesday night, Delta Airline Flight DL 55, A330-200 departed Lagos at 21:51UTC with 219 passengers on board. Registration number of the aircraft is N858NW. Aircraft reported fire warning on-board left engine and made emergency landing at the time and that was at 21:19UTC. Passengers have been evacuated and fire put under control. Some passengers sustained minor injuries during the evacuation. This is all we have at the moment.
As you are aware, AIB is an agency of government that investigates accidents and serious incidents. The enabling Act of 2006 and all we do here is in accordance with our regulation which takes a cue from the ICAO Annex 13. Everything we do here is in accordance with ICAO Annex 13.
Unfortunately, up until 3pm this afternoon (Wednesday), Delta as an airline has refused to notify AIB in accordance with the law of our country. But they notified the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) but they refused as at 3pm. We have an obligation to notify the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on this serious incident but unfortunately, we cannot fulfill that obligation because we are still waiting for Delta to give us information as to this serious incident.
This is a serious incident and by law we are investigating. There is what they call country of occurrence and Nigeria is a country of occurrence of this incident. Yes, it is a U.S. carrier, U.S. operator and U.S. registered aircraft but there are certain state protocols, which has to be respected. That gives right of investigation to the country of occurrence except the country of occurrence decides to cede that investigation to country of operator or any other country.
But in this case, we are able and equipped to investigate this serious incident and we will investigate it. For the sake of clarity, I am disappointed in Delta airlines for not respecting our own nation and laws of the land. It is totally unacceptable, and we condemn it its totality. The way I see it, we are being undermined, which is not acceptable.
ICAO law governs all the activities of air transport business. They know that we must be notified. Our websites are there; they can download the form, they can download the App. We wrote to Delta October last year notifying them that we have AIB App which they just need to download on their phone and send us notification. It is a very simple process. Nothing can be simpler than this.
We have a responsibility to report this kind of serious incident to ICAO. We cannot fulfill our own obligation because this incident occurrence has not been reported to us officially by the operator.
I have been in contact with my counterpart in the U.S., Mr. Dennis Jones, MD of NTSB. He agreed with me and he will make sure that Delta do the needful. So, we are expecting. –
Have you been able to access to the aircraft?
Don’t they want you to go near the aircraft?
When you have this kind of thing, we take possession of the aircraft and nobody goes near it. The aircraft is under safety investigation. That is what is required by law but until they make a formal report, then we are expecting them. I was made to understand they have appointed two investigators to work with us and they should be arriving this afternoon, I was made to understand. U.S. NTSB notified us that Delta has appointed two investigators to join us and NTSB is nominating one person. Their rep too will be joining to assist us on this investigation.
Have you reported to the NCAA?
We don’t report to NCAA. The way it works is, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) should report to AIB and notify the NCAA. I can tell you categorically that there is no ambiguity in what we do or competition between AIB and NCAA. It is clear that everything we do in aviation is guided by regulation and it is clear that when it is a minor incident, it is investigated by NCAA. If it is a serious incident or accident, that falls under the purview of AIB to investigate.
NCAA knows that and there is no conflict about that. We are the only agency of government that can actually investigate NCAA when there is an accident. There is no competition or rivalry. For your information, I was notified by the DG of NCAA of the incident. This afternoon, we got information that their engineers want to work on the aeroplane and we made it clear to them that it is a no-no. We told them that nobody should go near the aircraft. The best we can do is to safeguard it. Security people are guarding the aircraft.
Don’t you think there is a drama here?
I have insisted that we must interview the crew. We need to know what happened. I got a call too that they want to travel and told them they cannot leave. We have a responsibility. They are still in Nigeria. I have made it clear to them; they cannot go until we take their statement. We have an obligation under the law and we are here to defend that obligation. What Delta has done is to satisfy their own regulations and laws by reporting to the NTSB failing to respect our own law and regulations.
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