‘Curbing frequent aircraft collision’
“A serious responsibility is beckoning on whoever is in charge to stop further ground aircraft collision at any airport in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos, following two recent events recorded in quick succession”.
According to an aviator, Korede Adejumo, who spoke to the Guardian, the authorities in the aviation industry, charged for the safety of air travel should ‘wake up to the clarion call of the two incidents of land collision involving four aircraft in Lagos, to nip it in the bud, to avoid any consequential disaster that will lead to carnage’.
The agencies responsible for air travel safety in Nigeria include: Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).
Within two weeks alone, between July 6 and 17, 2015, two of such incidents have been recorded at Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, involving Emirates Airlines, an international flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and a domestic airline, HAK Airlines, including two FirstNation aircraft.
On Monday night, July 6, 2015, a sudden blackout on Runway (R-18) of the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, led to a ground collision between an Emirates Airlines aircraft and HAK Airline plane B737-400 parked at the apron wing of the airport.
It was learnt that the Emirates aircraft, a Boeing 777-200LR marked A6-EWD and with over 300 passengers, was diverted to take off from the domestic runway (L-18) of the airport due to the light out when it collided with the local plane. Due to its size, the Emirates aircraft had a little damage on its wingtip but the HAK Air plane sustained substantial damage.
The incident happened about 9.30pm when the aircraft, with flight number EK782, was taxiing to the take-off point for departure. For the Emirates aircraft passengers, the journey to Dubai was aborted. They were subsequently lodged in a three-star hotel in Lagos.
The incident was confirmed by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) which commenced investigation to unravel the cause of the incident. A source at the Bureau said the accident happened because “the international runway was not properly lit.
That was why all international aircraft were directed to the local runway for take-off but top management should have known that being a big aircraft with wide wings, the right wing was likely to come in contact with any aircraft parked at the apron and that was exactly what happened”.
Speaking on the incident, the Regional Manager, Emirates West Africa, Mr. Manoj Nair, said: “The right hand wingtip of our aircraft came into contact with the tail of a stationary aircraft, Boeing 737 of a local carrier named HAK Air. There were no injuries to passengers or crew, but the aircraft remained on ground while all passengers and crew were transferred back to the terminal.
A night stop has been declared and passengers will be accommodated on other services. Our flight safety team has left for Lagos. Emirates can confirm that flight EK782 from Lagos to Dubai on 6th July made minor contact with the aircraft of another carrier while taxiing. “Passengers were provided overnight hotel accommodation and will be flown to Dubai on other Emirates services on 7th July.
Emirates apologises for any inconvenience caused. The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200LR, is currently in Lagos for damage assessment and checks. Emirates is co-operating fully with all the relevant authorities. We are also conducting our own internal investigation into the incident.” Head, Public Affairs of AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, said: “The investigator had promptly deployed a team of investigators to determine the circumstances surrounding the serious incident with a view to making possible safety recommendations”.
It was learned by the Guardian that the damaged B737-400 aircraft was slated for a demo flight to be held on Tuesday morning in preparations for the issuance of Air Operations Certificate (AOC) for the airline to commence scheduled domestic flight operations.
Top aviation chiefs, among whom were the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Usman Mukhtar; Managing Director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Engr. Saleh Dunoma; Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Engr. Ibrahim Abdulsalam and the Commissioner/CEO of AIB, Dr. Felix Abali, visited the scene on that Monday night. Abali said: “The investigation shall be handled with speed.
Every incident is a safety issue that must be thoroughly investigated. This will help in preventing accidents and sustain safety in aviation”. While the incident report of the Emirates mishap is being awaited from AIB, another tragedy of a similar nature struck on Friday July 17, 2015, at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 in Lagos following a ground collision of two aircraft belonging to FirstNation Airways.
The last week incident which happened at about midday involved two Airbus 330 aircraft conveying not fewer than 250 passengers.
The two aircraft were partially damaged as a result of the collision. A source at the airport said one of the aircraft was taxiing from the runway to the terminal, for passengers to disembark while the other aircraft was preparing to take off to Port-Harcourt from the same terminal.
The source said the pilot might have been misdirected by the marshals who led the pilot to taxii to the wrong part of the apron. According to the source, the Port Harcourt bound aircraft was parked at Gate 4 while the arriving aircraft was bound for Gate 3 of the terminal.
However, the source claimed that the marshals misdirected the arriving aircraft to the same Gate as the parked aircraft which led to the two wings brushing each other. Following the incident, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority immediately grounded both aircraft while passengers were asked to disembark by the airline.
It was gathered that the refund of tickets were made to passengers on the Port-Harcourt-bound aircraft by the airline. The NCAA also confirmed the incident in a statement issued by its General Manager, Public Affairs, Fan Ndubuoke.
Mr. Ndubuoke said no passenger was hurt and that the incident had been referred to the Accident Investigation Bureau for further investigation. He also reiterated NCAA’s commitment to safety and security of passengers.
But Group Captain John Ojikutu (Rtd) at a stakeholders forum in Lagos organized by National Association of aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) on Tuesday believed that authorities responsible for aviation safety are not doing enough to avert further recurrence mishaps in the industry.
According to him, ‘aviation is about safety’ and ‘if stakeholders in the industry are not maintaining safety of air travel, then the track has been missed’. He sighted an instance involving an Arik aircraft in Jos sometimes ago and argued that it was because the relevant agencies had refused to release the incident report on that incident that similar occurrences are being witnessed.
Ojikutu, a very active player in the industry, heaped all the blame on NCAA for ‘failing to exercise its appropriate oversight responsibility to stall further occurrences’. “What did NCAA do with the incident report of Arik aircraft”, he queried. Answering to his own question he said: “Nothing, to my knowledge”.
But another aviation stakeholder, Bola Salami, in his own contribution posited that ‘this is not the time to apportion blame, but for hands to be on deck to stop the trend’. According to him, the solution lies with the agencies cooperating among themselves for a common goal: ‘Safety in the air and on ground’.
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