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Missing aircraft: Aviation agencies shift blames

Posted by By UCHE USIM, Lagos and FEMI FOLARANMI, Yenagoa on 2008/03/28 | Views: 578 |

Missing aircraft: Aviation agencies shift blames


Aviation agencies have embarked on a blame game following plans by the Presidency to sanction culpable parastatals over the missing Beechcraft 1900D operated by Wings Airline.

• Presidency threatens sanction

Aviation agencies have embarked on a blame game following plans by the Presidency to sanction culpable parastatals over the missing Beechcraft 1900D operated by Wings Airline.

This is happening as officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) meet to evaluate the available options in engaging foreign Search and Rescue (SAR) experts to help trace the missing airplane.

The Director, SAR of NEMA, Air Commodore Shuaibu, told Daily Sun that the search would continue till today when a meeting will be held to choose the country to invite for technical assistance in the search.

There is tension in the aviation agencies, as the National Assembly has called for the sack of the top echelon of the industry’s parastatals, declaring them as grossly incompetent.
Already, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) have distanced themselves from the embarrassment.

NCAA says its oversight functions stop once there is a major incident or accident as the AIB takes over from there, while the AIB says its job starts once the wreckage or crash site has been properly identified.
In-between these two aviation agencies comes the job of the NEMA, whose task is to search and rescue those involved in the crash or worse still, search and recover the wreckage of an accident and identify the spot.

On their own part, members of the National Association of Air Traffic Engineers (NAAE) said the missing Beechcraft 1900D aircraft was duly handed over to the Obudu airstrip before it was reported missing from the airspace.

President of NAAE, Ifeanyi Nwankwo, who made this known to reporters at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja disclosed that Enugu was the last airport that had contact with the missing aircraft.

According to Nwankwo, at that time, the aircraft was maintaining 250 left (bearing), while Enugu area control gave the pilot clearance to descend after which he got contact with the radio operator in Obudu.
The NAAE president hinted that the pilot reported two way contact with Obudu airstrip, which belongs to the Cross River State government and thus ended the NAMA’s business with the aircraft.

"That airstrip is not an airport; it is not charted, so it is like whoever is flying to that airstrip has its own responsibility for whatever happens. At the point he reported two way contact with Obudu, NAMA’s business is finished and NAMA had no responsibility any longer," Nwankwo explained.

He said the aircraft used NAMA radar up till 50 nautical miles when it left Lagos and later used the SATCOM communication system to hand it over between Lagos and Port Harcourt before it was taken over by Enugu.

Also commenting on the missing airplane, the AIB’s spokesperson, Mr Tunji Oketunbi, said the AIB, by law or policy, is not responsible for the search and rescue stage of an accident, adding that it only liaises with relevant agencies during that stage to facilitate carrying out its own statutory activities at the site once identified.

However, various aviation consultants have called for general overhaul of the sector, noting that charlatans, rather than professionals, are currently calling the shots, thus making a mess of the industry.
Also, Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, has expressed worry over the missing aircraft, declaring that the state of the nation’s aviation industry is still suspect.

Clark said he was worried that the airplane had not been found, more than a week after it disappeared.
His words: "We are worried about the missing plane.

Days after it reportedly took off, there is no news. The pilot, Captain Egbedi is from my village and he is even married to my niece. It is painful that his plane is missing. Though one would not want to use it to criticize the aviation authorities, if after a week we are yet to see the plane, does it mean there is no route the plane followed? We are, however, happy that the Federal Government is interested and has directed that the search be extended to Cameroun.

"I think more still need to be done in the aviation industry. After the Belleview and other plane crashes, a lot of money was given to the aviation industry to improve system and buy equipment. Nobody knows what has happened to that money. There are different stories we are hearing. We are worried about the position of the aviation industry in Nigeria."

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