The Dana Air plane crash — Morning After 2
It is now over one month that the DANA flight 992 crashed in Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos, killing all the passengers on board. As I mentioned last week, it will take a long time for Nigerians to forget the sad event.
The President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was swift in visiting the site of the horror. He was shown on national television and in the media shedding tears at the scene of the crash. His government moved speedily to establish two committees to unearth all the facts and sordid events of the crash. Much as these decisive moves by the government are well appreciated, we however need more to calm the nerves of Nigerians and assure them that such a calamity will not be permitted again. Very young Nigerians were sent to the graves before their time. It is indeed very unfortunate that our country is made to lose the services of young professionals of all grades and status to the unfortunate crash.
As I said last week, I have been flying DANA air for the past two years. After my Aero Contractor’s dirty experience, I had attached myself emotionally and sentimentally to flying with the DANA airline. The DANA Aviation Company has as its motto “The safest way to fly”.
Indeed, in matters of administrative stability, leading to strict observance of time in their air operations, DANA is Number One in Nigeria. When DANA tells you that your flight will take off at 1pm, you better believe the air organisation.
Latest 1.10pm (about ten minutes late) you will be airborne inside the DANA airline. The Cabin Crew of DANA are trained to be courteous. Every passenger is respected and cared for by the DANA Crew.
It was not until Monday 28th May that I had the information that DANA planes are rickety and could be unsafe for flying. A Cousin of mine who is a Chartered Accountant and who was once a member of the Federal House of Representatives in Abuja, told me in my hotel room in Abuja, that the planes of DANA were not quite safe to fly. He told me that DANA airline in recent times had been involved in some air misses that were making Aviation experts quite jittery about the safety records of the organization. He mentioned in particular an incident involving the airline on a journey from Governor Akpabio’s Akwa Ibom State to Lagos. When I boarded a DANA flight to return to Lagos on Tuesday 29th May, I did so in all fear and trepidation. The flight went off well and landed in Lagos without any ugly incident. Possibly we were lucky.
I then made up my mind that I would visit the DANA Headquarters in Lagos to rub minds with the Airline’s Managers on the information I had been told by my cousin. I was yet to effect the visit when the DANA Flight 992 dropped off the skies on 3rd June, 2012 destroying the precious lives of the Nigerians inside the plane.
What must we do in Nigeria today to effect radical changes in our Aviation policy so that such DANA air disaster never occurs again in our country? It is now time for us to minimise air carnage and disaster in our dear country.
The first thing that strikes my mind on what we must do relates to the Aviation safety and regulatory organisations that we currently have. It is known that Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) deals with ensuring that all Airline Companies keep to Internationally Accepted Safety Standards. The NCAA is saddled with the responsibility of getting airlines flying the Nigerian Air Space comply strictly with these safety standards. It becomes the lot of higher Authorities in Nigeria’s Aviation Industry like the Minister for Aviation and Director General of NCAA to ensure that the NCAA observes this all important assignment religiously.
1. It will be sad and tragic if Nigeria’s Air safety and regulatory organisations allow corruption to frustrate this all important assignment. It will be disastrous to allow airlines to cut corners in the maintenance of the planes they use within our country’s Airspace.
2. The professional competence of all pilots employed to fly the Nigerian Airspace must be checked and approved by the NCAA. This is important in the sense that it will be tough for Airlines to use unqualified pilots to fly in our airspace.
3. The aviation regulatory bodies must copy the example of what was practiced in the old Nigerian Airways when it was operating in the country.
Nigerian Airways pilots were known to uphold the beautiful tradition of not flying any of the Nigerian Airways plane if they noticed that the planes were not technically prepared to fly. Nigerian Airways pilots will never fly planes whose pins (however small) are discovered to have been bad or unfit to fly. This explained why the casualty rate of the old Nigerian Airways was minimal when the airline was operating in Nigeria.
4. The Nigerian government must ensure that International Landing Systems are made available to all airports in Nigeria. Any airport that is not serviced with International Landing Systems must be immediately closed to air traffic.
There was an incident in 1994 when I was Minister that quickened the resolve of the then General Sani Abacha administration to make available International Landing Systems for the Lagos Murtala Muhammed International and Abuja Nnamdi Azikiwe Airports respectively. Because of lack of ILS at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, a British Airways plane from London had to be diverted to land at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana. I remember vividly that Dr. Alex Ekwueme, a former Vice-President of Nigeria was on board the British Airways plane. The Abacha government immediately approved that ILS be bought for Lagos and Abuja Airports. I must however admit that bureaucratic bottlenecks prevented the immediate provision of the ILS to the two airports. Today, Lagos and Abuja Airports have the International Landing Systems though I cannot now vouchsafe that they are working well.
5. The time has come for a Federal Government bail out of the airlines operating in Nigeria. When this idea was suggested some years ago, the sum of the bail out suggested was N500 billion. I believe the cost must have increased now substantially. Let our economic managers meet and determine what should be the level of government bail out of the airlines. All other details of the bail out will have to be determined by the economic team.
It gladdens my heart to learn that the present Federal Government of Nigeria has already made available to Airlines in Nigeria over N300 billion in this regard. I will advice that we increase this amount to near N700 billion naira.
6. If a government bail out is found too costly to implement now, we could implore our government to encourage airline organizations currently operating in Nigeria to seek business and partnership affiliations with established foreign based airlines to fly the Nigerian routes. It must be firmly established that these foreign based airlines like Virgin, British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM etc. have guarantees that they will reap good results from their investments in aviation industry in Nigeria. Any domestic air organisation that is unable to meet the terms of such partnership must be requested to fold up its operations immediately.
7. Pilots of Nigerian origin are rated highly in the world. It should be easy for government to use the services of Captain Joji to rally round retired but seasoned Nigerian pilots to be given the direct assignment of coming out with measures that will make aviation industry in Nigeria crash and crisis free. I am convinced these Nigerian pilots will do it well for their country.
8. I equally believe that the Federal Government of Nigeria must establish now the office of an AIR Ombudsman. This office will be made available to Air travelers to drop complaints and suggestions emanating from their experience in the air travels they make in Nigeria. The Ombudsman will investigate all complaints and suggestions and will make their conclusions and recommendations available to the government through the Federal Ministry of Aviation. Beside, the Ombudsman will complement the technical services of the NCAA in ensuring that Nigeria has aviation companies that take safety of passengers very seriously.
All the above measures should be considered and approved alongside others very speedily. The DANA disaster will no doubt scare away many people from flying within the country’s airspace. When however, people see the seriousness of the Nigerian government in decisively moving to take measures that will enhance security and safety of life in the air, the confidence of the Nigerian air travelers will be restored and they will return in large numbers to the use of air transportation.
The DANA crash was tragic and horrendous. We must avoid such in future.
Once again, we bid all our sons and daughters who died in that DANA crash farewell. They died for Nigeria to survive. Our hearts will continue to bleed for the hard sacrifices they made for our country to survive as a country that guarantees the country’s aviation industry.
Good Night and Good BYE to our fellow gallant citizens!!
EBINO TOPSY – 0805-500-1735 (SMS ONLY PLEASE)