Monday 17 December 2012

Navy, Reps probe helicopter crash

Investigation beyond civil authorities–Capt Msheila
The Nigerian Navy has set up a board to investigate Saturday’s crash of its helicopter, the NN07, which claimed the lives of Kaduna state governor, Mr Patrick Yakowa, a former National Security Adviser to the President, General Andrew Owoye Azazi, and four others.
The Chief of Training and Operations of the NN, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor, disclosed this in Abuja while briefing journalists on the outcome of the crash that occurred at Okoroba community in Bayelsa state.
Ogbor assured that the helicopter was in good condition before the crash, adding that navies worldwide maintain high air assets in support of their maritime operations.
He said the NN, therefore, cannot tell why the helicopter exploded until investigations are through, as the aircraft took off two to three minutes before the explosion happened.
He said, “As at the time of the incident, the helicopter had flown 1,704 flight hours. Her last scheduled routine maintenance was concluded November this year and was cleared for operations by certified technical support engineer.”
He added: “When the aircraft crashed, it was having more than 80 flight hours before the next scheduled routine maintenance. The NN pilots are experienced. In fact, the captain in command has flown over 800 hours while the co-pilot had flown over 300 hours.”
The naval chief explained that the Agusta Westland was a new aircraft manufactured specifically for the NN, and that they have been adhering to all the maintenance instructions given to them by the manufacturer.
Members of the board of investigation include aircraft investigation specialists, Agusta Westland, manufacturers of the aircraft, and other aviation regulatory agencies as provided for by extant regulations.
The House of Representatives has also said it would institute an investigation into the helicopter crash.
Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkeiruka C. Onyejeocha (PDP, Abia) disclosed this in a statement in Abuja yesterday.

She disclosed that her committee will conduct a holistic investigation into the remote and immediate causes of the crash. “We will leave no stone un-turned towards ensuring air safety in Nigeria by strengthening our oversight functions of the relevant regulatory agencies in the aviation sector”
Commenting on the crash, the Director and Chief Executive of Mish Aviation, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia, said that the issue of Saturday’s helicopter crash is under the purview of the Defence Ministry.
Mshelia stated this in an interview with newsmen in Lagos while reacting to issues bordering on the agency to be involved in the investigation of the crash.
He explained that the Ministry of Aviation only exercises powers when an air crash involves a commercial aircraft.
“Civil and military aviation differ in terms of structure. Military aviation is not subject to civil registration and therefore not under any form of civil oversight from the regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
“The Ministry of Aviation supervises civil aviation operations involving civil registered aircraft. But in this case, the aircraft was reported to have been a naval helicopter, which is under military aviation.”
“Since it doesn’t bear civil registration, the Ministry of Aviation has no jurisdiction of safety oversight prior to the accident. The minister of aviation and the relevant departments are, in this case, like any member of the public, mourning the loss of the departed souls. This is regardless of the fact that civilians such as Governor Yakowa and perhaps the others on board the ill-fated helicopter were civilians besides the retired Gen. Azazi, who could also be referred to as a civilian.
“It will do no harm either for the minister to offer any voluntary assistance or if requested by the Ministry of Defence through her counterpart, Minister of Defence. This is because the Minister of Aviation has the responsibility to ensure a safe and pleasurable aviation experience for the general public and therefore must be concerned nonetheless of the effect of any air accident on the travelling public, especially in this trying times in aviation.”
However, Mshelia said all military matters should not be in the public domain because of national interest.

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