AIB’s report of Dana Air crash is unprofessional, unfair – Capt Gbadamosi
Capt. Muhammed Gbadamosi started his flying career with the defunct national airline, Nigeria Airways. After several years of flying with the airline and type-rated on numerous aircraft models like Fokker 27, Fokker 28, Boeing 727, B737 and several others, Gbadamosi moved to private airlines, which were spring up then. He has flown with Kabo Air and lately Associated Airways among others.
In this interview with OLUSEGUN KOIKI, Gbadamosi bares his mind on the recently released Dana Air crash of June 3, 2012 by Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and some gaps in the report. Excerpts:
Sir, what is your view about the recently released Dana Air report of June 3, 2012 by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which has generated some controversies in the sector?
I want to agree with those who said that the report was subjective. The reason is that the purpose of accident investigation is to prevent future occurrence by correcting the past mistakes. For the report to say it was a pilot error, it’s something that has never been done. I believe the reason why two commissioners of AIB did not publish the final report was because they didn’t know how to put the final report and who to blame, but the issue is not to blame somebody.
At the end of their report, AIB even blamed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the pilot’s lack of document because the pilots were DC9 rated. MD 83 aircraft has some differences. So, when you are converting, you must have those differences done during the training, but we didn’t see any paper for their conversion.
Also, the report also indicated that 17 minutes after takeover, the aircraft lost the first engine. I don’t know where they got that because it was not in the black box. Let not forget that two recorders; Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder (FDR) are the two items that can give you information on any aircraft that the crew did not survive and since one of the boxes was destroyed according to their report, it was only the CVR information that they relied on.
Going through the report, ‘the aircraft departed Abuja at 14:58 and at 15:15, the pilot according to the CVR, there was a discussion between the pilot and the co-pilot about the performance of the first engine. That is what we call abnormal performance in an aeroplane. So, the crew were monitoring the situation and they flew the aircraft with that situation until they got to Lagos and they started approaching Lagos at 15:40 and by 15:41, the co-pilot asked the captain if they could restart the engine and as at the time they were saying that, the second engine quitted.
So, they declared emergency at 15:42:42s UTC (Universal Coordinated Time). So, in this report, where did they get the information that the number two engine quit at a particular point in time? Where did they get the information that they lost the first engine 17 minutes after take-off? The pilot continued at 15:15 to monitor engine number two. From that time, to 15:22, when they now called for descend, they reported reaching 18,000ft at 15:30, until that time, they have not reported any engine loss.
They still continued to 7,700ft at 15:40, still no report that an engine was lost. Then, you can now ask that if these people were in emergency, an aeroplane that asked for descend at 15:22, the controller kept this aeroplane hovering until 15:41 when the flight was aborted. You can see the time. Why should they do that? If an aircraft is on an emergency, you will give that aeroplane a priority. Then, there was no concern about an engine then. For AIB to say the engine failed at 17 minutes, they should have gone back.
Having said that, accident investigation is meant for prevention, the cause of the accident is not usually pilot error. The primary cause of any accident is engine failure. Whether it happened 17 minutes after take-off or 17seconds before landing, the point was that if those engines did not fail, accident would not have happened. But, have they found out the cause of this engine failure? Thank God I was at that place two hours after the crash and I have the very clear picture, which I have in my camera on the wings of the aeroplane still intact, the tail was still intact and others.
The point I am trying to make is that as they claimed they had 26,000 pounds of fuel in that aircraft and that aircraft had burnt about 7,500 pounds of the fuel from Abuja, before the crash, the inferno there would have been uncontrollable. There was no sign that there was fuel in the tank of the aeroplane because I was there and those things were not burning.
What I saw that caused the flame was the publishing company with a lot of books. Those books were the ones that were burning. So, let’s try and find out the real reason for the crash. To my mind, that aeroplane did not have enough fuel to operate that flight and from a pilot point of view, there are situation where if you have limited fuel, during climb, if you don’t do certain things, you may have what they called fuel starvation to engine and that may cause some erratic performance of engines. And also during descend, there is an attitude you have to pump into that aeroplane in such a way that you don’t starve the engines because we have different pumps for different locations.
So, if that aeroplane had enough fuel as they claimed 26,000 pounds on board, that flame we saw would have been much more than that. In fact, the whole of that area would have been on fire.
As a professional in the sector, what do you think would have led to engine failure 17 minutes after take-off, according to AIB report?
Like I said, from the report of the pilots conversations, no engine failed at 17 minutes, they were discussing about malfunction, which is different from engine failure and when they discovered this malfunction, they were monitoring it. At a point, one engine failed, only the pilot knew about when the engine failed. It did not show on their discussions. The only time they said something about engine failure was when the two engines had failed and the co-pilot was even asking the captain if they could restart the engine.
So, that is what we have to know. In fact from investigation of AIB, the report was that they had 8,000 pounds of fuel and there was nothing report about the actual amount of fuel the aircraft was carrying. So, if the ground people said there was 26,000pounds of fuel and AIB is saying another thing, there is a call for concern.
At a point, the pilot was even telling the co-pilot to ‘raise the flaps and raise the gear.’ That is out of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). This report is unprofessional, unfair and people who decided to publish this report should go and re-think because the world is watching us and the world has read this report. I’m telling you it’s all shamble.
From your point of view, has there been any noticed improvement in the sector since the accident occurred about five years ago?
Accident investigation is supposed to give you comprehensive report and how to prevent a recurrence. The two reports; preliminary and final, gave some recommendations on what to do. Whether the company has complied or is complying is another thing and I want to say something about the airline here. There is so much racism in that airline because one of those things they were supposed to do during pilot recruitment was to get everybody including quality assurance, chief pilot and others involved. But, because they have their own people, if you look at the pilot, he was an Indian-American, the co-pilot was an Indian.
These are some of the things we’ve been saying. You cannot come and train a co-pilot here when we have over 400 Nigerians looking for jobs and this is still happening in the industry.
These are some of the recommendations that AIB should focus on because some of the Nigerians who have flown these routes would have been more conversant with the country. Probably If a Nigerian was on-board that flight, it would have been a different ball game.
Advice to AIB, NCAA and the Federal Government on the accident
The Federal Government appoints people and I don’t know their criteria for appointments. We know that the Minister of Aviation is a political appointee, but what about others? When he’s appointed politically, he now appoints his friends and cronies even if they are not qualified. My position is that we should go back to the status quo because before Engr. Zakari Haruna was made the Director-General of NCAA, there was publication for people to apply and there was a consultant company that handled it to make sure there was no government intervention. We want that to continue.
If you look at the present composition of NCAA, AIB, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency and several others, no one knows how they got there.
Quote: “From the report of the pilots conversations, no engine failed at 17 minutes, they were discussing about malfunction, which is different from engine failure.”