The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) on Monday slammed Air Peace and other airlines for their persistent failure to report accidents and serious incidents involving their aircraft, saying such actions amounted to serious safety infractions.

Chief Executive Officer/Commissioner of AIB, Akin Olateru, who disclosed this, said concealing such safety information was contrary to the rules of engagement prescribed for airlines in line with extant regulations by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the AIB.

Olateru, in particular, fingered Air Peace, for which, the bureau received a notification on June 5, 2019 about a serious incident involving a Boeing 737-300 aircraft with Registration Marks 5N-BUK, from a passenger on board.

He also cited another incident involving an Air Peace aircraft on May 15, 2019, which was on approach to landing at Lagos Airport from Port Harcourt.

According to Olateru, the Air Peace aircraft was said to have experienced a hard landing as it touched down on the runway 18R at the Lagos Airport.

Upon receipt of the notification, he said the Bureau visited Air Peace Limited office and confirmed the said occurrence.

He said the agency 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, scratches and dents, an evidence of tyre scouring on the sidewalls of the fourth tyre as well as bottoming of the main landing gear oleo struts. .

He said there was also visible damage to the right-hand engine compressor blades.

The aircraft, he said, has since been on ground, awaiting implementation of the hard landing inspections recommended by the aircraft manufacturer, the Boeing Company.

This, according to him, includes an inspection of the right-hand engine pylons and the wing root, due to the heavy impact concerns.

Olateru disclosed that further discussions with the Maintenance Personnel of Air Peace Limited revealed that CFM International, the engine manufacturer, has also been contacted with regard to necessary inspections, to ascertain the serviceability of the starboard engine.

His words: “The nature of the damage suggest 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 viz: ‘An incident involving circumstances indicating that there was a high probability of an accident, and is associated with the operation of an aircraft.

“Of utmost concern is the fact that till date, the Accident Investigation Bureau has received no notification of the incident three weeks after the date of occurrence, contrary to ICAO Annex 13 which guides the operations of aircraft accident investigation procedures.

‘’Rather, the Bureau further to the occurrence, received a submission of a ‘Mandatory Occurrence Report’ (MOR) subsequently filed at NCAA, on 7th June 2019, which filing was as a direct result of the Bureau’s visit to Air Peace office on the 6th day of June 2019’.

“An operator files an MOR after an occurrence to NCAA and not a notification to the Bureau as required by its Regulations.

Similarly, Olateru stated that in recent times, an aircraft belonging to Air Peace Limited was also involved in a serious incident, hinting that the airline willfully failed to comply with the provisions of the Bureau’s regulations which provides that, ‘Subject to paragraph 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 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 recalled that precisely, on December 14th, 2018, a Boeing 737-300 belonging to the airline, with registration marks 5N-BUO, en route Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu from Lagos was involved in a serious incident at about 10:44hrs. He said the information only got to the Bureau through the social media.

‘’Whilst the Bureau was not notified of the occurrence until later in the evening, the AIB chief stated that investigators met the aircraft at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) apron in Lagos where it was parked with the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) affected, thereby posing an undesirable difficulty in the Bureau’s bid to successfully discharge its statutory mandate of investigating accidents and serious incidents.

‘’A careful investigation of the incident by the Bureau revealed that the aircraft was relocated from Enugu where the incident occurred, back to Lagos: and all relevant information on the CVR was over written, thereby making it impossible for the Bureau to retrieve the actual data’.

‘’The Accountable Manager and Chief Pilot of Air Peace Limited at the material time were duly warned by the Bureau for non-compliance with the Regulations.’’

Based on all the foregoing, AIB admitted that it was obvious that Air Peace management lacks the full understanding of the statutory mandates, functions and procedures of the Bureau.

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, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and also wrote to Boeing and the manufacturer of the aircraft’s engine, CPM International.

“When the incident occurred we report it to NCAA. We followed the aircraft manual, which guided us on what to do when such incident 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 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 incident like hard landing happens and you inform NCAA, we feel we have followed the procedure.

‘’Boeing has written back to us and has told us what to do, according to the procedure, currently inspection is being carried out on the aircraft,” Onyema said.

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