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Kaduna Crash: Accident investigators vet aircraft maintenance

By KENNETH EHIGIATOR
Forty-eight hours after the crash that killed the two crew members of a private plane in Kaduna, Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, is currently looking into the books of Dana Corp, the company where the aircraft had gone for maintenance.

The aircraft, a Beechcraft 350 plane was on a test flight after undergoing the maintenance, when it crashed near Kaduna airport, killing the crew.

Civil aviation rules stipulate that an aircraft that had undergone maintenance must embark on a test flight to ensure it was now in order.

Unfortunately, the ill-fated plane crashed while undergoing the flight, fuelling speculations that the maintenance of the aircraft may not have been properly done.

Besides, looking into the books of the maintenance company located in Kaduna, the AIB is also prying into the books of owner of the turbo-prop twin-engine aircraft, a Briton, who died in the crash.

He was said to have recently acquired the U.S-registered aircraft from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA.
Spokesman of Accident Investigation Bureau, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, told Saturday Vanguard yesterday that vetting of the books of Dana Corp was necessary to ascertain if the crash had a link with the maintenance effected on the plane.

He also said it was imperative for the AIB to look into the books of owner of the aircraft to determine what had been the maintenance history of the aircraft, adding that the agency’s investigators had already taken possession of the crash site.

“Our men are already at the site of the crash; they have commenced investigations into the cause of the crash.  They will go through the books of the aircraft’s maintenance company; they will also go through the books of owner of the plane and ascertain the nature of maintenance carried out on the aircraft,” Oketunbi said.

Unlike the Beechcraft 1900D that crashed at Obanliku local government area of Cross Rivers State, which took aviation authorities in the country six months to discover its crash site, the AIB scribe said his agency had had no difficulties in locating the black boxes – flight data recorder, FDR, and cockpit voice recorder, CVR, – of the aircraft, having crashed onto a hard surface.

Oketunbi ruled out the possibility of the AIB seeking foreign assistance in analysing the black boxes of the aircraft, stressing that the agency had acquired sufficient capabilities to decode the FDR and VCR, which have stored in them the last few minutes conversations between the crew and control tower before the crash.

On the nation’s search and rescue capabilities, especially against the backdrop of the fact that the crew of the aircraft did not die of the impact of the crash but the explosion that occurred about 30 minutes later, Oketunbi said the crash site was not easily accessible to search and rescue team that rushed there.

According to him, the rescue team could not access the site until about 30 minutes later, when it takes a minimum of six minutes for such a team to commence search and rescue operations..

“That aircraft crashed into a difficult terrain, so it took quite sometime for the rescue team to be able to access the accident site.  That was why, before they got there, the plane had exploded killing the occupants,” he explained.

Speaking in a similar vein, the Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, affirmed that the difficult terrain of the crash site militated against effective search and rescue.

Demuren, who expressed sadness about the loss of lives in the crash, what happened in Kaduna could have happened anywhere in the world, as far as search and rescue was concerned, alluding to the crash of Air France plane which crashed into the ocean in Brazil in 2009, killing all 228 persons on board.


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