Thursday, September 27, 2012

DANA AIR ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION PROCESS WAS A RIGHT LADDER LEANING ON A WRONG WALL

I was once again brought to a total amusement when i read from the pages of Nigeria newspapers the proposed accident investigation on the ill fated Dana Aircraft. Just like it has become an integral part of the very weak processes we have in Nigeria, i immediately told my colleagues that the proposed accident investigation would end up like the once we have had in the past. It was started with the wrong questions. In Occupational Health and Safety, it is a common saying that “when you lean a right ladder on a wrong wall, it will take you to a wrong place”. Accident investigation focuses on the root cause of an incident instead of the surface cause, it is very fundamental that the root cause be unveiled to enable us put into control whatever surface causes we may have available. So many noise and publications were made which centred mainly on the aircraft history of having being put on sale by the former owners because it was faulty and not fit for operations within their fleet. When you take that statement for a careful analysis, what it invariably translate into tells us that Alaska Airline who were the former owners of the ill fated aircraft has policies and processes on safety that govern their overall operations in sustaining public trust and corporate reputation. This again brings to my mind the absence of Occupational Health and Safety legislation in Nigeria and the very bogus benefits Nigerians would benefit from it if well structured and implemented for the good of all. Occupational Health and Safety principles supported by functional legislation, you dare not have an incidence or even a near miss without documenting and reporting it. In the city of Alabama, a pilot successful flew an aircraft which landed safely without any form of threat or exposure, through the flight log book Occupational Safety and Health Administrators (OSHA) upon routine inspection and checks discovered that the pilot did not undergo a conversion course necessary to acquaint him with the operating processes of that aircraft specification, the company was penalised heavily and a huge fine was slammed on them as a correction means. Things we must note here are as follow: • The aircraft was flown and landed successfully without any hitch • The irregularity was discovered by OSHA 9 years after it took place • Yet, it was treated with utmost severity in sanctions • The big question is who plays the role of OSHA in the Nigerian context? • What are the functions of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)? • Where do these functions begin and end? Taking our mind back to surface and root cause of the accident, the said MC Donnel Douglas MD 83 aircraft that was sold to Dana Air by Alaska Airline was reported to have had a history of worrying defaults. Between 2002 and 2006, it had an emergency diversion and in another instance it was evacuated after landing at the Long Beach, CA due to a chaffed wire bundle that discharged and produced smoke in the cabin area again. It was parked after this incidence in 2006 and again brought out for maintenance in 2008 before it was eventually sold to Dana Air in 2009. Root cause investigation of the accident I would have thought should ask the following questions: • Was the aircraft duly inspected at the point of sales before it was paid for and brought in to fly in Nigerian airspace? • If yes, where is the document that was signed off by the NCAA official who was assigned to inspect the state of this aircraft before purchase? Where are his notes? • Was this aircraft certified worthy to fly within the Nigerian Airspace? • If yes, where is the document that has the names and signature of such NCAA official who did certify the aircraft fit? • Who paid for the cost of the trip of the NCAA official who went to verify the air worthiness of the aircraft at the country of purchase? • Was it NCAA or Dana Air? The proof of payments for that trip should be made available by NCAA (Hotel accommodation, flight ticket and other travelling allowances). This is the foundation of a root cause in accident investigation, if the right thing has been altered from the onset there is no way we would record such a fatality as was recorded in June 3, 2012 in Nigeria. The surface cause accident investigation only bothers on other stories that were been parade in the piazza of Nigerian newspapers. Whether this particular aircraft started malfunctioning afterwards and other associated issues, they are all offshoot of the root cause. In a normal society, the leadership of NCAA should have been changed by now as a matter of fact, it is long overdue. You cannot have aircrafts dropping from the sky every other time, killing Nigerians carelessly and it is seen as one of such things? The trustee (the regulators) that Government has assigned responsibilities and roles in this direction should be liable and prosecuted if need be. Every time such fatality happens in Nigeria we almost guess right what their statements and actions would sound or look like, we need a change that will change the direction we are currently heading. We are a blessed and gifted nation, why do we have a vast population that lives on almost less than a Dollar per day? Today, we have again seen how the investigation and the expected report is being trivialized yet people lost their loved ones, Nigeria as a country lost human resources which is very fundamental in the growth and development of any Nation. For how long are we going to live like this? When would we have answers to all the troubling questions? Is it too difficult to take a leap from what is positively tenable in other countries of the world? How did we get here? Where did we go wrong? Only hope remains the answer. These are my personal thoughts: Ehi Iden

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