By Donu Kogbara
A FRIEND sent me this woeful, whimsical little piece in which it is imagined what the plane that recently crashed might have said if it could speak for itself:
My name is MD 83. I was manufactured in 1990 and acquired by Alaskan Airlines. For 12 years I served my masters with might and strength and made them smile all the way to their banks.
Until November 4, 2002 when I developed engine faults and had to make an emergency diversion due to smoke in my cabin. Passengers disembarked alive.
On August 20, 2006, I was again evacuated after landing at the Long Beach, California. Again, due to smoke in my cabin. Passengers disembarked alive. Concerned about my air worthiness, Alaskan Airlines parked me until September 11, 2008, for repairs. And shifted my burdens to Dana Air, Nigeria in February, 2009.
On arrival on the tropical shores of Africa, I hid not my state of health. On May 3, 2012, a Lagos station manager said I should be grounded for a check-up. That alarm was ignored.
On May 11, 2012, I made an air return and emergency landing at MMA2. Passengers disembarked alive. On May 25, 2012, I again made an air return and emergency landing due to engine failure.
Passengers disembarked alive. And finally on June 3, 2012, I crashed in Iju, five to six nautical miles from touch down, killing all 153 passengers on board and 30 people on ground.
After 22 years of meritorious service, I wished my masters had listened and let me rest. Now I have put tears in the eyes of a nation. But come to think of it, if Alaska Air considered me unfit to fly Americans, why should Dana Air consider me worthy to fly Nigerians? GOD HELP NIGERIA .
Investigations regarding the cause of the tragedy are ongoing and will take several months to produce reliable results. And it’s best not to jump to conclusions at this stage. But even if it turns out that the condition of the plane was not the problem, many Nigerians are absolutely convinced that it was.
Perception is often as important as reality where public opinion is concerned; and while we await the outcome of the investigation, senior Dana and Aviation Ministry personnel have one helluva public relations nightmare on their hands.
This is an extremely difficult and painful situation that needs to be handled intelligently and sensitively by the executives and officials who either ran the airline company or were responsible for ensuring that it fulfilled international safety requirements. And I for one am not impressed by their efforts to date.