Report on late Taraba Gov’s plane crash: Expert describes action criminal

•Blames NCAA, Controller for negligence

One week after the Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) released the final reports of six past crashes including the crash involving the Cessna 208B Caravan with registration number 5N-BMJ belonging to Taraba State Government.

The Cessna 208b jet which was coincidentally flown by the then Governor of the State, Danbaba Suntai crashed at Kwananan-Waya Village, Yola South local government area of Adamawa State on 25th October, 2012.

The former Governor never lived to tell the story despite all efforts made in view of the grievous injury sustained.

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In the findings released by the AIB on the investigation carried out on the cause of the crash, while the bureau said it could not conclusively determine the cause of the accident, it however disclosed three major damning causes of the accident which indicted the late Governor.

According to the report: “the late governor turned pilot was neither certified nor qualified or competent to fly the aircraft on  a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight after sunset.”

The findings further declared that : “The pilot is qualified to fly Cessna 172 and has total logged flying hours of 58 hours and 40 minutes hence, the late governor/pilot has no relevant endorsement  to fly Cessna Caravan 208B. The pilot does not have instrument ratings and night flight privileges.

The pilot also was accused of lying by reporting an incorrect estimated time of arrival (ETA at Yola as 10:01 UTC as against the time 17:19 UTC while he also lied to the control tower that he had six persons onboard when actually four were found after the accident.

The regulatory agency, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was not exempted from the calamity as it was accused of failing to carry out its oversight functions.

The release of the reports particularly the one involving the late Taraba State governor has been generating serious reactions from the sector.

The latest of such reactions is coming from a former Military Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and a member of Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (retired).

Ojikutu who did not spare the lackadaisical attitude of the NCAA towards safety critical issues in the sector wondered what stopped the authority from checking what he called the impunity and excesses of late Governor turned pilot saying if he were to be in the military, dead or alive, that he would have been tried for culpable negligence.

His words: “Just reading the report of the Suntai plane crash; isn’t that criminal?

Is that still one accident that you would not apportion blame? Imagine if he had ran into another flight with an unlicensed aircraft that he was not qualified or certified to fly.

By the way, why has the NCAA been sanctioning airline and pilots that breached regulations like pilot flying with expired medical certificate? In a sane country, the NCAA and the air traffic controller who cleared the aircraft flight would be in a mess now. It was easy for them to stop former Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s aircraft from taking off from Akure about four years ago because of flimsy excuses that the airport was closed and that the aircraft had no license to fly commercial.

“Nobody bothered to check the impunity and excesses of a pilot/governor. It should be with criminal cases like the pilot/governor. If the Suntai case were to be in the military, dead or alive, he would have been tried for culpable negligence.”

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