From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Air Commodore Luke Ochulor (retd), a former military administrator of Delta State, has frowned at some comments from Nigerians over the crashed air force jet in which seven officers met their untimely death last Sunday.
Ochulor, speaking to our correspondent at the weekend, stated that most of the comments border on ignorance, stressing that experts should be allowed to express their views.
A Nigerian Air force Beechraft King Air B350i had crashed a few distance from the Nnamdi International Airport, Abuja, killing everyone on board.
Ochulor, who was a flight instructor, said that in the face of an emergency all experiences disappear. According to Murphy’s Law, if anything made by man can go wrong, it must go wrong.
‘It is wrong for anybody to publish anything or run commentary on a military aircraft without first of all making reference to the Air Force through the Ministry of Defence as the authorised operators. Nobody is authorised to fly an aircraft without first being authorised by the Ministry of Defence,’he stressed.
‘From what people who were on ground were trying to explain on how the plane struggled to land, it appears the aircraft lost an engine. This aircraft Beechcraft has 2 engines. There is what is called critical phase of flying, which is take off and landing. Once a pilot can take off and land, he is on the threshold of becoming a professional.
‘I used to be involved in the recruitment of cadets who were coming to fly in the Nigerian Air Force Kaduna before travelling overseas for various training. We were always careful in traits some of which includes their ability to answer mathematical question because they would be involved in aerodynamics. Again you will not be allowed to fly if you are above 25 years as a cadet,’ Ochulor explained.
‘Proper ground academics that defines the rudiments of air laws are delivered to them enlightening them that they don’t have a chance in the event of a terrible mistake, that aircrafts are not like motor cars.
‘The younger you are the better and that answers the assumption in one of the National dailies that said “a more experienced officers of the rank of Squadron leader and Wing Commander should have flown the aircraft.’
Not dismissing experience as a critical factor in flying an aircraft, Ochulor said that ‘it is not the rank that determines the experience that one has. The younger you are the more active one is, the reflexes are faster.
‘For example, for you to be a fighter pilot in the MIG-21, you should not go beyond the rank of a squadron leader but as one gets older the reflexes become weaker though the experiences will be there but when it comes to interdictions the younger you are the better.
‘At the time I was an instructor in California in the Nigerian Air Force, I was a flying officer, an instructor on the C-130 I could navigate airspace at night from the United States to Lagos without stopping. It is not your rank. So a flying lieutenant is even a big officer to fly a twin engine aircraft. The C-130 has 4 engines and some of the instructors were flight lieutenants.
‘These same officers of rank of flight lieutenants, flying officers and warrant officers have been operating this air craft since 2018, in all these war zones in the northeast and northwest and Kaduna and Niger State carrying their missions successfully.
‘But when an accident happens, you don’t go about blaming anybody. Even if at the end of investigation, the air force will continue to investigate because the aim of investigation is to prevent future occurrences and to let the Ministry of Defence know exactly what happened.
‘When you are flying a twin engine air craft and lose one engine when you are coming to land, your recovery is quite marginal. This is because you don’t have altitude. You can only manouvre if you have altitude. If you lose one engine and have a correct altitude a pilot by training should be able to manage the aircraft until he lands.
‘Unfortunately, people stay on the ground and start speculating. Again depending on the type of aircraft it is not easy to dump fuel. Somebody wrote that they should have dumped fuel. Dump fuel where, which fuel are you going to dump.
‘You are coming to land and you don’t even have enough fuel, you may have burnt all fuel while airborne. There are procedures for dumping fuel. You can’t dump fuel from low altitudes when you are coming to land.
‘Let the public stop speculating until the MOD through the Air Force gives them the true version of the investigation. On what could possibly cause engine failure he had this to say.
‘There are so many things that could cause engine failure. It could be anything; it could even be a bird’s strike. It could be weather. There should be an end to how Nigerians react when something like this happens. They talk without facts,’ he concluded.