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Promoting Good Governance.

Dana, Aviation Authorities, Responsible for Crash

The Nigerian government has suspended the operational license of Dana Airlines, owners of the MD – 83 aircraft that crashed in Iju Ishaga, Lagos State, which killed the 153 persons on board and several on the ground.

Joe Obi, spokesperson of the ministry of aviation, who disclosed this today in Abuja said the action is to allow for a thorough investigation of the air disaster.

He was silent on whether the government will sanction official of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA.

Earlier today, the Senate called for the withdrawal of the operating license of Dana Airlines and the stepping aside of the NCAA boss, Harold Demuren, until investigations are carried out and concluded on the crash.

But investigations by the icirnigeria.org indicate that the NCAA should be held responsible for the crash as much as Dana Airlines.

Our investigations show that the Dana MD – 83 aircraft that crashed in Lagos should never have been brought to Nigeria.

Worse still, the entire Dana fleet of MD – 60 series might not have been certified to fly in Nigeria if aviation regulatory authorities had done some homework on the history of the aircraft.

Information available to the website indicate that Dana Airlines Limited purchased a fleet of  four MD – 83s from Alaska Airlines in 2008 shortly before it commenced operations, at a time when most American airline operators were dumping the  aircraft because of its inefficient fuel consumption and noticeable safety issues.

In fact, Dana Airlines bought the aircraft at a time Alaska Airlines itself was disposing of most of the MD – 80 planes in its fleet as many of them had previously had issues.

The airline had been dumping its MD 80s since its twin – engine McDonnell Douglas MD – 83 aircraft crashed off Point Mugu into the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean, killing all 88 persons on board.

Alaska Airline flight 261 departed Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for San Francisco and Seattle, United States when it developed problems and diverted to Los Angeles to land. But it crashed into the Pacific Ocean before it could land.

The National Transport Safety Bureau investigations showed that the cause was inadequate maintenance – the simple issue of failure to lubricate a mechanical component of the aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, also had serious issues with MD – 80s for years. In March and April 2008, a safety audit by FAA forced American Airline to ground its entire fleet of about 300 MD – 80 series aircraft.

The issue at stake was the hydraulic wiring of the aircrafts and American Airline had to cancel about 5700 flights in the incidents.

In the same vein, Delta Airline also had issues with its fleet as it grounded its 117 MD – 80 aircraft for safety and regulatory checks, in the process cancelling 275 flights.

Thus, by 2008 when Dana Airlines bought its fleet from Alaska Airlines major operators in the aviation, particularly the United States, had started dumping the power packed but old MD – 80 aircraft.

In 2008, American Airline had nearly 300 MD – 80 planes in its fleet. By July 2011, it the number had gone down to 195.

Age is a big issue in the aviation industry as it relates to aircraft. The Dana plane that crashed in Lagos would have been grounded in many countries many years ago. In America, although the issue of age limit for commercial aircraft is still being discussed, most airlines do not fly planes that are older than 20 years old.

Boeing, the aircraft manufacturers, said that its planes are built to fly for 25 years but added that airlines can continue to fly them if they satisfy airworthiness regulations.

In China, the age restriction place on imported passenger aircraft is 10 years, in Russia it is between 10 to 15 years and Libya has reduced its  own from 25 to 20.

In response to allegations that the ill – fated aircraft that crashed on Sunday had technical or maintenance issues, Dana Airlines management has said that it was “serviceable and operational”.

Speaking through its Director of Flight Operations, DANA Air, Capt. Oscar Wilson, the airline said in Lagos yesterday that the plane was still in serviceable and good condition in spite of its age of 22 years.

“We don’t allow our aircraft to fly if not in perfect condition. We don’t take risks with people’s lives. I did the test flight of the questioned aircraft myself, there was nothing wrong with the aircraft, it was okay,” he said.

“The aircraft had flown to Ibadan on Saturday without hitches contrary to rumours that it was undergoing repairs. On Sunday, it was a different story entirely as the aircraft had started operations as early as 7.47 a.m. On Sunday, 5N-RAM flew at 7.47 a.m., left Lagos to Abuja on flight 999 and Abuja back to Lagos on Flight 998. The aircraft went back to Abuja flight 993 and was coming back before the fatal flight 992,” he said, giving further details about the aircraft’s final hours of operation.

But aviation experts are not impressed and hold Dana Airlines and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, responsible for the crash.

One aviation source who does not want to be named accused the NCAA of handling aviation safety and regulations with laxity, observing that the agency continues to allow noisy and old aircraft to operate in the country in spite of the intervention fund given to airlines by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration to upgrade their fleet.

Dana Airlines commenced commercial flights operations in Nigeria on November 10, 2008 and operates flights from Lagos to Abuja, Calabar, Port Harcourt and Uyo. It had four MD – 83 aircraft in its fleet.

The MD – 80 series which include the MD – 81, MD – 82, MD – 83, MD – 87 and MD – 88, has been in commercial operation since 1980. In its 30 years of operation it has been involved in 60 incidents, at least 18 of them serious accidents involving over 1,300 deaths. The Dana crash is rated as the most devastating and deadliest crash involving an MD – 80 aircraft.

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