United States-based Safety Flight Foundation has lamented the tragic crash involving Dana Air flight 9J 0992 that killed all 153 persons on board on June 3 in Lagos, saying the accident happened despite efforts in recent years to improve air safety in Nigeria with global recognition of such effort.
Associated Press (AP) weekend reported that international aviation experts have said that it is too early to tell the cause of Sunday’s crash of the Dana Air MD-83, but they hope Nigeria would continue reforms it started after series of fatal crashes more than five years ago.
“There’s no question that we know a lot has gone on and I think you have to attribute some of this really good record up until now to that,” said William R. Voss, president and CEO of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Flight Safety Foundation. “I don’t know what will come out of the investigation. Were there lapses and oversights? We’ll find out.”
The experts acknowledged that the weather was clear and sunny at the time of the crash nine kilometres (five miles) north of Murtala Muhammed International Airport.
“The airplane’s pilot radioed the tower minutes before the plane slammed into the ground, saying both engines had failed on the aircraft.”
AP also reported that officials at Dana have said the plane, once owned by U.S.-based carrier, Alaska Airlines, had no major problems before Sunday. In a statement on Friday, the airline said MyTechnic, a Turkish company, did routine maintenance on its aircraft.
The Spanish airline, Iberia, now owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group, conducted maintenance on the Dana aircraft for certification until 2010, airline spokesman Santiago de Juan said. MyTechnic in Istanbul later took over that responsibility as well, said Andy Holdsworth, a Dana spokesman based in the United Kingdom.
The Dana crash was the first major commercial airliner disaster in Nigeria since Oct. 29, 2006, when an Aviation Development Co. flight from Abuja to Sokoto crashed, killing 96 people, including the top spiritual leader of the nation’s Muslims.
“In the time since, Nigeria embarked on an aggressive attempt to take aging aircraft out of its skies. The nation revoked certifications for all airlines, allowing new airlines to take flight under increased scrutiny by a newly formed civilian aviation body”, Voss said.
The country also sought to repair its image abroad, especially as the U.S. once put a six-year ban on direct flights from Murtala Muhammed airport in the 1990s.
over security concerns. Slowly, international authorities began noticing, culminating in an August 2010 announcement by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to grant Nigeria its top air-safety rating, known as Category 1. That allows Nigerian airlines to fly their own aircraft directly to the U.S. Local carrier Arik Air Ltd. has direct flights to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“That was not something that the FAA did with great eagerness or had a political or economic incentive to do,” Voss said. “Clearly, this was something that was real.”
AP said that since the crash Sunday, civil aviation authorities in Nigeria have come under increasing political and public pressure. However, aviation experts like Tony Tyler, the director-general and CEO of International Air Transport Association, have cautioned against the government throwing out officials over the growing anger.
“Safety is a constant challenge everywhere in the world. In Nigeria, as elsewhere, this important work must continue without political interference,” the statement added.
Though Nigeria’s moves impressed many abroad, those who live within the country always maintained a healthy skepticism of the airlines.
Carriers routinely have financing problems or purported ties to top politicians and businessmen in a nation analysts often describe as having one of the world’s most corrupt governments. Engineers have been on an off-and-on strike at carrier Air Nigeria, a one-time darling of the country when billionaire Richard Branson helped create it as Virgin Nigeria several years ago. The airline continued its flights during the strike, AP also reported.