Analysis: Dana Air’s many troubles and aviation regulation in Nigeria
On Tuesday, 49 people escaped death as a Dana aircraft overshot the runway at the Port Harcourt Airport after it touched down.
An aircraft is said to have overshot the runway when it moves beyond the specified point due to over speeding or its inability to stop.
But the aircraft, which left Abuja for the Rivers State Capital, skidded off the runway due to what the airline described as heavy rainfall in Port Harcourt.
Dana Air already blamed the problem on the weather condition, same as the airport authority, FAAN, even before a formal investigation was conducted.
The incident recorded no casualty and the passengers were reportedly evacuated safely out of the aircraft.
The development drew the ire of many Nigerians, who attributed the incidence to lapses in the regulation of the industry and the operation of the airline.
A catalogue of controversies
On February 7, barely two weeks before the Tuesday incident, the door of an aircraft belonging to the airline fell off upon landing at the Abuja airport.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how one of the passengers on the flight, Dapo Sanwo, recounted how the door was loose all through the Lagos-Abuja flight.
Another passenger took to her twitter page to express her fear, saying “Flew Dana. Exit door was unstable throughout flight. As we touched down, it fell off. Scary stuff.”
But the airline in its reaction said the door must have fallen off because it was tampered with.
Kingsley Ezenwa, spokesperson to Dana noted in a statement that the seat was never shaking because the aircraft was “airbone and fully pressurized.”
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, in its reaction, immediately said it has checked and found the aircraft airworthy, adding that it will conduct investigations into the incident. The report of that investigation is yet to be made public.
Many Nigerians across social media, however, expressed their fears about the incident, saying the government must look into the airline’s fleet due to its antecedents.
On Sunday, June 3, 2012, a Dana Air Flight 992 crashed into a furniture works and printing press building in Iju-Ishaga neighbourhood of Lagos. The crash led to the death of 153 people on board and ten more people on the ground.
The crash was reported as the second deadliest aircraft crash on Nigerian soil, behind the Kano air disaster of 1973.
The aircraft, a twin-engine McDonnell Douglas MD-83, took off from Abuja at 14: 58 local time and was cleared for flight level of FL260. But reports said 17 minutes after taking off from Abuja, the crew noticed an abnormality and discussed the problem. It eventually crashed into a crowded neighbourhood near the airport, landing on its tail which detached from the plane, leaving the rest of the plane to crash into the building. The building, reports said, was storing flammable equipment while the plane exploded, consumed by its own fuel.
An autopsy was later conducted on the remains of the burnt victims, among whom were Levi Ajuonuma, a broadcaster and General Manager of NNPC’s corporate affairs; Sheu Usman, Director of Mainstreet Bank; Aikhomu Ehime, son of former chief of General staff Augustos Aikhomu, among others.
In its reaction, the Federal Government seized the license and also banned the MD-83 aircraft type used by Dana air after the crash.
On September 5, 2012, the suspension on the airline was lifted and it started recertification and retraining processes.
John Ojikutu, an aviation expert and former airport commandant at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, said there are serious issues with regulation in the industry.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday morning, Mr. Ojikutu argued that there are fundamental problems that regulators treat with kid’s gloves and gloss over without proper scrutiny.
He said, “Did NCAA read the last AIB accident report on Dana, the one that crashed at Iju? Did they read it? I have read the report several times. There are a lot of things inside that report that on my own, if I found myself in NCAA, I would ground the airline, I would do a thorough audit on it; revalidate their licence. You just suspend their licence. There are so many things wrong, not necessarily with the aircraft, even with the crew.
“The man that flew and crashed the (2012) aircraft had a lot of problems; the aircraft had some problems too…. two or three days before they flew that Dana that crash. What did they do to Dana after that AIB crash report? If they have not read it, I will tell them to go and read it again.”
The aviation expert noted that there are several issues wrong with the operation of Dana airline, especially its crew management and their operational manual.
“There is the crew management of the airline too: to know whether there was no reason to go to that airline and review their operational manual, including pilot manuals. They (NCAA) need to make sure that what they approve for them is what they are doing. What I have seen in Dana crash, I would say ‘Did you have an operational manual for you to be behaving like this?’
“There are so many things that are wrong. Beyond building this and that and owning national carrier, there are problems with regulation.”