By Lawani Mikairu
Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, yesterday said it had commenced investigation into the circumstances surrounding the unscheduled diversion of a helicopter owned by Tropical Arctic Logistics Ltd.
This came as controversy continued to rage among aviation experts on the propriety or otherwise of a helicopter landing on a busy highway to pick a passenger.
The pilot of the helicopter with registration number 5N – BVQ and aircraft type AW139 was compelled to land on Benin-Ore Expressway in an unscheduled diversion to pick up someone.
The video of the landing of the chopper on the highway has been trending for days now.
Confirming the commencement of investigation yesterday, Mr Sam Adurogboye, GM, Public Relations, NCAA said the result of the investigation would be made public soon.
According to him, “the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, is fully aware of the viral video of the helicopter that landed on the highway. Initial reports indicate that the helicopter is owned by Tropical Arctic Logistics Ltd., with registration number 5N – BVQ and aircraft type AW139.
“The pilot was compelled to land between Benin and Ore in an unscheduled diversion to pick up someone. NCAA has commenced full scale investigation to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the unscheduled diversion.
“As soon as the investigation is concluded, the outcome will be made public.”
Experts, stakeholders react
Meanwhile, aviation experts have continued to question the propriety or otherwise of a helicopter landing on a busy highway to pick a passenger.
Commenting on the incident, Nigeria Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, said: “I think it is only Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, that can say if the chopper got a clearance or not.
“Again, what are the requirements for emergency operations or evacuations? This happens all over the world. Choppers are used to airlift road accidents victims and it may need to land on the road.
“But what are our local regulations and how are we sure they were not complied with”?
Former Airport Commandant, Muritala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu(retd.), said: “The alert and coordination for aeronautical emergency management and services is NAMA and that explained my initial call on NAMA and NCAA.
“Even then, any movement of any aircraft from any point of registration to another point, registered or not, needs the clearance from the ATS under whose jurisdiction the flight is going to be conducted not the Police and not FRSC.”
Another stakeholder, Dr. A. Alex, claimed no law was broken by the pilot of the chopper, saying “I am wondering what is actually lawless about a person having an emergency and having a helicopter come to the rescue?
“Safety precautions were taken, the area cleared and the pilot must have been aware of the risks of landing on the spot. The crowd indicated that it was a woman.
“If any of us felt unsafe in a somewhat dangerous area and felt the need to be removed and can afford it, what will we do?”
Also, another stakeholder, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed the company that owns the helicopter got proper clearance to undertake the flight.
He said: “A billionaire gentleman hired the chopper to enable him fast track his journey. Appropriate clearance was sought by the company and there was no issue.
“In the course of the said airlift, the man saw someone who knew him or vice versa and asked the lady to join him on the flight.”
However, this position has not been confirmed by the relevant aviation agencies, especially Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, that is in charge of flight navigation in the country.