Insufficient fuel, reason for Opebi chopper crash – AIB

THE Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has disclosed the causes of the air crash involving a Bell 206B III helicopter with registration mark 5N-BQW, which occurred on August 28, 2020, at Salvation Road, in Opebi, Lagos State.

The AIB Commissioner Akin Olateru, who addressed the media in Abuja on Thursday via zoom, blamed the crash on fuel exhaustion at low altitude and low speed leading to loss of control in flight.


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Olateru added that the pilot’s decision to continue the flight towards the intended destination with insufficient fuel instead of landing as soon as practicable in line with Section 12.12 of the Quorum Aviation Limited Operations Manual Part A contributed to the fatal accident.

The other factors, according to the commissioner, were lack of effective management supervision of the airline’s flight operations and inadequate safety oversight on the part of Quorum Aviation Limited.

Lagos helicopter crash site
Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State governor at the site of the Opebi helicopter crash

Giving more details about the crash, Olateru said eyewitnesses notified the AIB of the accident on August 28, 2020 and the agency immediately dispatched investigators to the accident site.

According to him, “At 11.45:34 hours, a Bell 206B III helicopter 5N-BQW operated by Quorum Aviation Limited established initial contact with the Lagos Tower and passed its traffic information: inbound from Port Harcourt, maintaining 1000 feet, 20 miles to the field estimating Lagos at 12:17 h, with three persons on board and one-hour endurance. Lagos Tower acknowledged the call.

“At 11.47:08 hours, Tower issued an inbound clearance to 5N-BQW and requested 5N-BQW to report an estimate for the control zone boundary. 5N-BQW replied estimate to the control zone boundary 10 minutes and Tower acknowledged and confirmed the estimate for 11.57 hours. At 11.54:34 hours, 5N-BQW reported five minutes to the field and informed Tower of intent to land at EAN (Evergreen Apple Nigeria) hangar.”

“At 12.10:59 hours, 5N-BQW reported field in sight and was instructed by Tower to report left downwind runway 18 left (18L). At 12.16:49 hours, Tower tried to raise 5N-BQW on radio as it was not sighted on the left downwind position of the landing circuit as expected. Tower continued calling 5N-BQW but there was no response. At 12:36 hours, Aerodrome Rescue and Fire Fighting Service (ARFFS) notified Tower of a reported helicopter crash in a residential area at Opebi.”

The accident, he said, occurred at 12:14 hours with all the three occupants of the helicopter “fatally injured.”

Olateru addressed three safety recommendations to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the airline in the report.

He said, “The NCAA should ensure that air operator certificate holders who wish to combine flight duty with multiple post position, provide it with comprehensive safety risk mitigation measures to ensure that safe operations can be achieved.

“The NCAA must try to ensure that Quorum Aviation Limited take steps to prevent further violation of its approved operating procedures and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs).

“Quorum Aviation Limited must make sure that all its personnel are well acquainted with their respective schedules of responsibilities and are capable of discharging their duties effectively in line with the company’s standard operating procedures.”

The Bureau addressed a total of nine safety recommendations to the NCAA, the affected airlines and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), among others.

The AIB also released three other reports and one safety bulletin.

The three reports were on an accident involving Skypower Express Airways Nigeria Limited Air Tractor AT-401B Aircraft with registration 5N-BTV, which occurred at Rukubi Village 90 NM South-East of Abuja on the October 4, 2018.

The Bureau also released the report on the serious incident involving the Nigeria Police Airwing Bell 429 Helicopter with registration 5N-MDA, which occurred at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, on August 3, 2019.

Also released was the report on the serious incident involving a Skypower Express Airways Nigeria Limited Cessna 172 Aircraft with registration 5N-APE at Bini Village, Niger State, on November 19, 2019.

AIB Commissioner, Akin Olateru
AIB Commissioner, Akin Olateru. Credit: Guardian

The Bureau similarly released one safety bulletin report on the ground collision involving a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) truck with registration AKD765FK and a Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Bell 412 helicopter with registration NAF 600, which occurred at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja on June 15, 2020.

    Olateru stated that the newly released reports made a total of 53 reports his administration had released at the AIB, adding that 72 reports had been released since the establishment of the Bureau in 2007.

    He further added that the Bureau had, so far, released a total of 232 safety recommendations since 2007, 151 of which were released by his administration from 2017 to date.

    This, he said, was in line with fulfilling the Bureau’s mandate of investigating aircraft accidents and serious incidents with a view to enhancing air safety in Nigeria.

    “The Bureau is very conscious of her critical role in assuring a robust aviation safety in the country and globally even as it has resolved to pursue this with all vigour,” Olateru said.

    Experienced Business reporter seeking the truth and upholding justice. Covered capital markets, aviation, maritime, road and rail, as well as economy. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @theminentmuyiwa and on Instagram @Hollumuyiwah.

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