African Outlook Online

Ade Shogbonyo's column

Fools Rush In

Fools Rush In 

  By Ade Shogbonyo 

The inevitable has occurred and now Nigeria is in a state of mourning. At the risk of sounding smug considering the circumstances surrounding the tragedy regarding Allied Air in Ghana and DANA Air in Lagos it was expected and predicted. 

 

The spectacle of large crowds contaminating the site of the DANA Air crash and morons standing on the tail section of the aircraft oblivious to the fact that they have no business being there shows the inadequacy of the response and ill preparedness of the authorities in Nigeria to deal with such a disaster.

 

Now once again I dare say that the events going forward will bring to fore every fool, nincompoop and charlatan that has no idea about aviation to comment on issues they have absolutely no idea about. As discomforting and embarrassing to Nigeria as this may be, it will pale in comparison to the soon to be unfortunate comments made by those consummate “professionals” before an accident report is released. This is the time to sit back and observe as events unfold.

Based on what we know for now lives have been lost, there have been rumors about the last few minutes of the DANA Air flight but one thing is certain the crashes in Accra and Lagos once again put the spotlight on Nigeria’s Aviation industry. The main spotlight must be focused on NCAA the main regulatory body. I have written in the past that there are major issues in the body and have openly called for Dr. Demuren (the chief executive) to step down. However in true Nigerian fashion his term has been extended recently. 

 

There has been this misnomer that implies that the lack of an accident or crash denotes true safety. Nothing can be further from the truth. The general public may be excused for falling into a false sense of security in the past because of the lack of a major accident involving an airliner but the truth is that the warning signs have been there and practically screaming at us.

The Beech 1900 crash at Obudu and the Helicopter crash en-route Ilorin were examples of failures of oversight. The last year fiasco of the landing at Obudu airport by a civilian aircraft whilst it was not certified to do so is also an example of a system in trouble

It would be in character for us to hear calls from ignoramuses for the MD-83 to be banned from Nigeria or for airlines to be allowed to operate only if they buy brand new airplanes in the wake of these crashes. It would have been amusing if it wasn’t truly heartbreaking the level of stupidity that permeates the village square discourse when these kinds of tragedy occur. These “experts” have discounted the fact that even the mighty Airbus 320, the most successful midsize commercial airliner produced by Airbus crashed during an air show during its initial debut period. Just recently a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 crashed whilst on a demonstration flight in Indonesia. 

An article written by someone by the name of Fidel Agbobu on Sahara Reporters,  an online website demonstrates the problem. In his piece he alluded to the fact that the aircraft may have been problematic prior to it being operated by DANA Air. What Mr. Agbodu and his ilk fail to do is provide true knowledge and information to the public. They deal in innuendo and fake bouts of intellectual honesty. Conjecture wrapped in a shroud of speculation describes the questions raised in his piece even though at the end he says he looks forward to an accident report.

The distant service history of the aircraft involved in the crash has no bearing on the accident for now. How many years had the aircraft flown since the incident he referred to in his piece? What is the relevance? How many airlines in the world share the service history of their airplanes with the general public? 

The Alaska Airlines crash in he referred to in his article was as a result of a flight control malfunction. In the wake of this the US FAA issued an airworthiness directive that addressed the problem and had it fixed. Aviation is dynamic and innovative in nature. The Airbus 380, the largest airliner in the world during its introduction into Quantas Airlines fleet suffered a catastrophic engine failure which took the skills of more than a crew of four pilots to prevent a major incident.

Now unrelated stress cracks are a problem on the airplane and this is being addressed. History is full of examples of “teething” and “maturing” problems with airliners. The Boeing 737, the most prolific airliner in the world has had its own fair share of problems. 

 Nigeria Airways ceased to fly the Fokker Fk-28 after the 1978 midair collision crash in Kano and the 1983 Enugu crash despite the fact that in both instances none of these crashes had anything to do with any mechanical or operational deficiencies with the aircraft. In the wake of the Sossoliso, ADC and Bellview crashes the boneheaded policy implemented called for limiting the age of aircraft operating in commercial aviation in Nigeria.

The ignorant innocent public had been lulled into a false sense of security by equating aircraft age as a major contributory factor in crashes in Nigeria. The myth perpetuated by certain sections of the aviation community and the certain sections of the general public has now been shattered based on the tragedy involving DANA Air. 

 The focus must always be maintenance and proper operational oversight.  

An aircraft just like a car is a mechanical orchestra of parts that come together in harmony to function. Occasionally there will be design problems that affect a particular make and model and there will always be maintenance issues. However one thing is often not related to another, an aircraft may return to base due to an air conditioning/pressurization problem today and have a totally unrelated problem next week.

This does not mean that the aircraft is bad. The issue is how the overall operation including maintenance is being run. That is where NCAA comes into play. The true concerned professionals are those that have consistently over the years made comments and proffered real solutions (rather than cosmetic often corruption induced patches) to the problems besieging the aviation sector in Nigeria. 

The truth is sadly there will never be an accident free aviation sector. Accidents will happen and occasionally this will result in the loss of life. Aviation is still by far the safest form of mass transportation out there in spite of crashes that occur. A truthful professional will tell you that it is his/her duty to engage in practices and actions that minimize the possibility of an occurrence. In the meantime, let us watch as this drama unfolds and fools rush in tripping over each other to be heard or to be deemed relevant.

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