Column - Air disasters can be avoided
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 00:06
The house of representatives of the Republic of Nigeria announced it will carry out an independent investigation concerning the unforeseen Dana Air crash that occurred Sunday, June 3. According to CNN.com, Dana Air crashed into a densely populated neighborhood in Iju-Ishaga, Lagos, after the pilot radioed an emergency landing. All 153 passengers and crew members on board the aircraft died, including 10 more when the aircraft made impact with a two-story building.
Accidents do happen of course, but was this inevitable? No, all 153 passengers and crew members aboard the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 plane would have avoided this ill-fated tragedy if firm aviation precautions were considered.
Aircrafts older than 20 years should no longer be flown. Critics may argue the price to obtain an aircraft is extremely high, but compared to a human life: Which is more important, an aircraft or the lives of its passengers? According to the Nigerian Tribune, Dana Air’s McDonnell Douglas MD-83 was 22 years old. This exceeds the age limit in Nigeria, but Dana Air still decided to purchase the plane from Alaska Air, which reported that the aircraft developed a number of faults before it was sold.
The Nigerian government must ensure that all used planes that are more than 10 years old are immediately banned from flying in the country to save Nigerians and other citizens of the world from air disasters.
The management of the defaulting airlines must be made to face the full wrath of the law, even as the National Assembly should look at ways of amending relevant laws to impose heavy fines on airline operators in Nigeria whose operations jeopardize the safety of passengers.
For Nigeria and other developing countries to get it right in ensuring the safety of the sector, the federal government should publish the white paper of all previous air crash incidents, identify and prosecute persons involved and ensure that these persons are sanctioned to serve as a deterrent to others.
The fact the aviation industry is unsafe should concern the government, because if passengers should lose faith in the local airlines, then that segment of the nation’s economy will suffer irreparable loss, leading to mass unemployment. Also, there is the need to declare a state of emergency in the aviation industry and to ensure strict enforcement of safety operational standards is maintained.
The lethargy on the part of government officials to enforce strict safety standards in the aviation sector is worrisome. Why did the Ministry of Aviation go to bed with and allow private airline operators to toy with the lives of humans because, as many aviation experts have observed, most of the planes flying our airspace have aged and are not properly maintained?
Let me warn that we cannot afford to sleep at the switch this time. To go to sleep after a few weeks and return to our normal lives will be most tragic. The present government must put on the front burner the issue of sanitizing the aviation system and ensuring aircrafts are in good shape before authorizing them to fly.
The Federal Aviation Administration lists pilot error as the leading cause of plane accidents, but pilot error is almost always part of a chain of events that starts with something like an iced-up wing, a piece of equipment that fails or a close encounter on a runway.
The Federal Aviation Administration should ensure that pilots undergo evasive training on decision making if an aircraft should be flown even if it has minor technical difficulties.
It is painfully clear the Nigerian aviation sector needs a comprehensive overhaul. Any investigation into the crash of the Dana aircraft must raise these inevitable questions: What was the state of the aircraft?
How airworthy was it before it began the ill-fated trip? Has the airline been lax in the maintenance of aircraft on its fleet as well as other safety measures? My heart wails for all the lives lost in this tragic event, and I hope that the aviation sector of Nigeria imposes strict obligations on aircrafts’ owners to prevent such disasters from occurring.