The late Gov Suntai’s crash and the NCAA negligence

There is no doubt that the present management of the Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), led by its Commissioner, Akin Olateru knows it’s onion when you talk about carrying out the statutory responsibility for which the bureau is established for.

In the history of the bureau, none of the previous managements at the bureau had really given the required attention to airport crashes the way the present management has displayed.

Only two weeks ago the AIB again released another final reports of past six crashes that sadly occurred in the country between 2012 and 2018.

Of the six final reports released,  the most controversial was the report of the accident involving the Cessna 208b jet flown by the late Taraba State Governor, Danbaba Suntai which  crashed at Kwananan-Waya Village, Yola South local government area of Adamawa State on 25th October, 2012 inflicting severe injuries on the late governor which eventually terminated his life.

The report of the crash involving the late governor’s ill fated plane exposed the level of negligence on the parts of the relevant aviation authorities particularly the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

In the report released by the AIB on the cause of the crash which was damning, the late governor turned pilot was discovered not to be certified or qualified or competent to fly the aircraft on  a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight after sunset.

The findings further declared that the pilot though qualified to fly Cessna 172 and had total logged flying hours of 58 hours and 40 minutes, but he  had no relevant endorsement  to fly Cessna Caravan 208B and did not have instrument ratings and night flight privileges. These and several misdemeanors were traced to the late governor turned pilot.

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The regulatory agency, the NCAA was not even exempted from the calamity as it was also accused of failing to carry out its oversight functions.

The release of the immediate cause of the late Governor Suntai’s crash has really brought to the fore the much talk about incompetency on the part of the regulatory body vis a vis its oversight functions.

To corroborate the position of Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), a one time Military Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, the NCAA as the regulatory body has many questions to answer.

According to Ojikutu, if the report of the late governor’s crash had happened in another country, by now the NCAA would have been in a deep mess which is absolutely true.

For how on earth will the regulatory body allowed the late governor to operate an aircraft that he was not certified to fly and why will someone who was not certified to fly into a visual controlled terrain be cleared to do so? Again, why was the late pilot though qualified to fly a Cessna 172 and had total logged flying hours of 58 hours and 40 minutes allowed to operate  a Cessna Caravan 208B aircraft that he was not rated on?

What if he had carried more than four people and what if in the process the ill fated aircraft had collided with a commercial plane carrying hundreds of innocent passengers? What would have the regulatory body told the whole world?

Why did NCAA that was quick to sanctioning airline and pilots that breached regulations like flying with expired medical certificate fail to take action on the Suntai’s illegal action; or was it because he was a governor that he was allowed to flout so many rules to the point of no return.

All these questions and many more are waiting for answers from the NCAA as the whole world is waiting and watching.

Without much ado, the report of the late Governor Suntai’s crash has only gone to further portrayed the NCAA in particular as a sleeping giant and the time has come for the management to take more seriously its oversight functions. The authority may be lucky that the plane did not collide with another plane when it happened, but what if that had happened. For sure the NCAA management would by now be in a very hot soup. NCAA should no more take things for granted.

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