24th September, 2012
I can understand the national outcry when the minister of aviation lifted the suspension imposed on Dana Air. I can also relate to the families who lost their loved ones in the fatal accident on Sunday, 3 June, this year. The sudden loss of lives in a major airliner accident is naturally overwhelming and emotionally draining.
Air transportation accidents, especially those in large passenger airplanes, make major national and international news with outrageous reactions. In any case, natural or accidental death of another human being usually saps other human beings’ state of mind/emotion. Although ultimately, we shall all die someday, the thought or sight of death will always put us in a state of devastation, whenever a known person or a relation is involved.
But banning an airline that has been involved in an accident does not solve the problem of a repeated accident. The only solution is to find the probable cause(s) of the accident and proffer a solution to future occurrence. If Dana Air is banned from operating in our national airspace, it does not mean we have finally prevented future aircraft accidents. What it means is that another airline has been sent into bankruptcy, and more Nigerians have been sent into unemployment.
What Nigeria needs most at this point is to demand from our government the cause(s) of that fatal accident with a view to preventing future mishaps. From knowing the reason for the crash, we can deduce and prevent future similar cases. This is what is important, not an indefinite suspension of Dana Air. The minster of aviation properly elaborated this view when she made the announcement of Dana Air’s return to service.
Over the years, air safety has improved tremendously: airplanes are more reliable, more dependable, with improved safety measures .The only setback in flight safety or air transportation is human errors. Human factors account for more than 80% of all aircraft accidents in the modern world. The core issue of air safety is how to overcome or minimize the fallibility of man when operating a machine. Human-flight deck interface problems have been at the forefront of aviation safety seminars, organizational safety management systems, and air regulation authorities the world over.
For expert aircraft accident investigators, air crash is not the problem, but the factors responsible for the crash. An accident does not just happen; there is a series of events that lead to a crash. Unless the pieces of the puzzle are collated, analyzed and synthesized, it becomes difficult to deduce the probable cause of an accident.
This is where the Aircraft Accident investigation Bureau (AIB), an independent agency of the federal government, comes into the equation. The agency, which reports directly to the president, according to Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Act 2006, is the sole authority in air crash investigation in the country. The nation should wait patiently for AIB to come out with its report on the cause(s) of the accident before raising undue alarm of a foul play.
As bad as the Dana Air accident was, there have been worse fatal accidents in the recent history of aviation, involving today’s celebrated legacy airlines. What led to the improved safety records of major airlines like British Airways, KLM-Airfrance, and American is repetitive, professional investigation into accidents and incidents involving their aircraft, and the adoption of safety recommendations.
Again, an aircraft accident, most of the time, involves elements of human errors. These errors or factors must be studied to create reactive, proactive, and preventive regiments of safe aircraft operation. Below are two fatal aircraft accidents involving BA, and the reports of the investigations into the cause of the accidents:
·10 September 1976: British Airways Trident 3B; Flight 476; near Zagreb, Yugoslavia: The aircraft had a midair collision with an Inex Adria aircraft, DC9-32. All nine crew members and 54 passengers on the Trident were killed. All five crew members and 108 passengers on the DC9 were also killed. The probable cause of this event was failure of the Yugoslavian ATC system to provide adequate separation.
·22 August 1985: British Airtours 737-200; Flight 28M; Manchester Airport, England: The crew rejected the takeoff due to an uncontained engine failure. The failure led to a punctured fuel tank and a fire that spread to the cabin. The accident killed 53 of 131 passengers and two of six crew members.
British Airways has not been banned or suspended by the British government. Today, BA is one of the most celebrated legacy airlines, and probably the most loved airline by Nigerians. It may sound funny to some people in this country, but the major challenge facing aviation industry in Nigeria today is not regulation / safety oversight, but critical human factor elements.
Without proper deductive investigation to unveil the causes of aircraft accidents in Nigeria, mere display of public emotions towards Dana Air, the government, or its agencies won’t help to establish a solution.
The more Nigerians, after every accident, distort professional investigation into the cause(s) of a crash, the more we dilute the zeal to pursue the facts for future lesson.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s business environment is unhealthy for anyone. Public scorn alone is more than any Act of God, an acute social retribution that mitigates a business’ economic growth. If it can cope with the massive losses, Dana Air should be allowed to operate and survive.
—Capt. Daniel Omale