By Adekunle Williams
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has accused Air Peace of failure to report accidents or serious incidents to the bureau at the exact time the incidents had occurred.
The General Manager, Public Affairs, AIB, Mr Tunji Oketunbi, made the disclosure in a statement signed in Lagos on Monday.
Oketunbi recalled that on Wednesday, the bureau received notification from a passenger onboard about a serious incident involving a Boeing 737-300 aircraft with Registration Marks 5N-BUK, belonging to Air Peace.
“It was reported that the said incident occurred on May 15, while the aircraft was on approach to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos from Port Harcourt.
“The aircraft was said to have experienced a hard landing as it touched down on the runway (18R).
“Upon receipt of the notification, AIB visited the airline office and confirmed the said occurrence. The Bureau further conducted a damage assessment on the aircraft, which revealed that the aircraft made contact on the runway with the starboard engine cowling, as obvious from various scrapes.
“Others are the scratches and dents, an evidence of tyre scouring on the sidewalls of the No. 4 tyre, as well as bottoming of the main landing gear oleo struts. There was also visible damage to the right-hand engine compressor blades,’’ he said.
Oketunbi noted that the aircraft had since been on ground, awaiting implementation of the hard landing inspections recommended by the aircraft manufacturer, the Boeing company.
According to him, this includes an inspection of the right-hand engine pylons and the wing root, due to the heavy impact concerns.
He said further discussions with the airline’s Maintenance Personnel revealed that CFM International, the engine manufacturer, had also been contacted with regard to necessary inspections, to ascertain the serviceability of the starboard engine.
Oketunbi said the nature of the damage suggests that there was a high probability of an accident, as captured in the definition of Serious Incidents in the bureau’s Civil Aviation (Investigation of Air Accidents and Incidents) Regulations, 2016.
According to him, an incident involving circumstances indicating that there was a high probability of an accident, and is associated with the operation of an aircraft.
He said of utmost concern was the fact that till date, the bureau had not received any notification of the incident: three weeks after the date of occurrence, contrary to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 13 which guides the operations of aircraft accident investigation procedures.
Oketunbi said: “Rather, AIB further to the occurrence, received a submission of a Mandatory Occurrence Report (MOR) subsequently filed at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Friday, which filing was as a direct result of the bureau’s visit to the airline’s office on Thursday.
“An MOR is a Mandatory Occurrence Report that an Operator files after an occurrence to NCAA and it is not a notification to AIB as required by its Regulations.
“Similarly, and in recent times, an aircraft belonging to Air Peace was also involved in a serious incident and the airline willfully failed to comply with the provisions of the bureau’s regulations which provide that:
“Subject to paragraph (2) below and regulation 14 where an accident or a serious incident which results in the withdrawal from service of an aircraft occurs in or over Nigeria.
“No person, other than an authorised person, shall have access to the aircraft involved and neither the aircraft nor its contents shall, except under the authority of the AIB Commissioner, be removed or otherwise interfered with.
“Where it is necessary to move aircraft wreckage, mail or cargo, sketches, descriptive notes, and photographs shall be made if possible, of the original positions and condition of the wreckage and any significant impact marks.’’
He noted that precisely, on Dec. 14, 2018, a Boeing 737-300 belonging to the airline, with registration marks 5N-BUO, enroute Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu from Lagos was involved in a serious incident at about 10:44hrs, saying that the information only got to AIB through the social media.
Oketunbi said the airline’s Accountable Manager and Chief Pilot at the material time, were duly warned by the Bureau for non-compliance with the Regulations.
The general manager said based on all the foregoing, it was obvious that Air Peace Management lacks the full understanding of the statutory mandates, functions and procedures of the bureau.
Oketunbi noted that air accidents and serious incidents’ investigations were carried out in accordance with the relevant Laws and Regulations in force, in the interest of safety and with the aim of forestalling similar occurrences in the future.
“Section 29 of the Civil Aviation Act 2006, which is the Act establishing the bureau, confers the prerogative to determine the classification of an accident or serious incidents on AIB.
“All airlines are therefore enjoined to report these occurrences at all times,’’ he said.
But reacting to the allegation, the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema said that when the incident happened, the airline reported to the regulatory agency, NCAA and also wrote to Boeing and the manufacturer of the aircraft’s engine, CPM International.
“When the incident occurred, we reported it to NCAA. We followed the aircraft manual, which guided us on what to do when such incidents occurred.
“We wrote to Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer and also wrote to the engine manufacturer, CPM International. We also grounded the aircraft.
“We always report any incident to the NCAA and sometimes, you may not know what to report to AIB because the NCAA is the regulatory authority and the Bureau is in charge of accident investigation.
“So when incidents like hard landing happen and you inform NCAA, we feel we have followed the procedure.
“Boeing has written back to us and told us what to do. According to the procedure, some inspection is currently being carried out on the aircraft,” Onyema said.