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The objectives of accident investigation

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Sir: I read the publication in some Nigerian media titled, “Air Peace Concealed Major Aircraft Incidents from Us – AIB” which was a press release by the Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau to the World and this was unprecedented.

After carefully reading the article and as a concerned Nigerian, I have the following observations and comments on the matter. The damage assessment by AIB did not reveal that an accident or serious incident occurred as Hard Landing does not equate to an accident or serious incident.

According to AIB, the nature of the damage suggests a high probability of an accident but it is difficult to see how such a conclusion can be reached when a thorough investigation was not carried out.

Accident investigation is a pain-staking research work, which follows a whole process involving the gathering and analysis of information, the drawing of conclusions after determination of cause(s), and making safety recommendations.

The aircraft (B737-300 with registration 5N-BUK) is on ground awaiting hard landing inspection i.e. the aircraft is not operating at the moment and so; it is difficult to see what wrong Air Peace has committed. If, according to the airline, a Mandatory Occurrence Report (MOR) was filed with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in writing on May 17, 2019 after a notification was made on May 16, 2019 i.e. within two days of the incidents; the NCAA should confirm whether this assertion is true, and if so confirmed, Air Peace has done no wrong.

With regard to Air Peace B737-300 with registration 5N-BUO, a malfunctioning Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) does not equate to an accident or serious incident and does not ‘make’ an accident. Its primary purpose is to complement i.e. facilitate investigation, and so one is at a loss to see what “sin” the airline has committed.

The assertion that Air Peace lacks full understanding of AIB’s statutory mandates, functions and procedures does not derive from any investigation with recommendations and such a conclusion can therefore not be reached.

So far, no accidents or serious incidents were shown to have occurred in the publication by AIB. If, by chance, Air Peace, which is unarguably the leading airline in Nigeria, lacks full understanding of AIB’s mandates etc., then it will be very safe to conclude that other airlines in the country equally lack this “full understanding.”

The AIB should therefore take appropriate action to brief and educate all airlines in the country on such requirements for the wellbeing of the sector as AIB plays a critical role in aviation safety. Nothing stops the Bureau from charging a fee for their services as it is within their purview to do so.

Annex 13, “Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation” does not provide for the type of Press Release made by AIB and published by the media in which an airline is blamed and castigated even when no accident occurred and no investigation carried out to reveal cause(s) and recommend measures to prevent re-occurrence.

Press releases are targeted at critical stakeholders such as regulators, manufacturers et al for timely measures to enhance safety. It is possible that the AIB has other reasons for the allegation of wrong doing against Air Peace but this has not been demonstrated and unfortunately, the whole world has read the publication.

Engr. Angus Ifeanyi Ozoka mni is a former Rector, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, a retired Director in the Ministry of Aviation and was Head of the Accident Investigation Bureau during the first ICAO Audit in January 2007. He hosted the ICAO team on behalf of the Federal Government as the pioneer Commissioner/CEO of the Bureau.

In my very candid opinion, and deriving from the information by AIB in the Publication, neither ICAO nor NCAA rules and regulations were breached by Air Peace and it is not clear which aspects of AIB’s mandate and procedures, which should be in alignment with ICAO Annex 13 were breached. Most of the issues in the publication are under the purview of the NCAA and it is believed that they are alive to their responsibilities, as the blame did not originate from them.

Certainly, NCAA will not make such press releases because the Agency understands the industry and does not need to shout to lead. It is not the leadership style of its Director-General.

In conclusion, we should be mindful of what we publish for the whole world to see so as not to be looked down upon and so that the competence of our professionals is not in doubt.

In this way, no bias will be imputed. That publication is not in consonance with ICAO Annex 13, and certainly not in the best interest of Nigeria. This type of press release is unknown to aviation. A very professional AIB will be a source of pride, and a Blessing to Nigeria and the world, and we must all support it towards this goal.

According to ICAO Annexe 13, the sole objective of the investigation of an accident or incident shall be the prevention of accident and incidents. It is not the purpose of this activity to apportion blame or liability.

Engr. Angus Ifeanyi Ozoka mni is a former Rector, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, a retired Director in the Ministry of Aviation and was Head of the Accident Investigation Bureau during the first ICAO Audit in January 2007. He hosted the ICAO team on behalf of the Federal Government as the pioneer Commissioner/CEO of the Bureau.


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