Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
Contrary to some media reports, the Bell 206 helicopter belonging to Quorum Aviation Limited which crashed on Friday in the Opebi area of Ikeja, Lagos State, was not fitted with a Flight Data Recorder (FDR), otherwise know as a “black box”, the Sun can confirm.
Responding to reports that a black box was retrieved from the site of the crash, the General Manager, Public Affairs, of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Tunji Oketunbi said: ‘The aircraft was not fitted with the black box.”
The helicopter with registration number 5N-BQW, which flew in from Port Harcourt, crashed into number 16A Salvation Road, Opebi, Ikeja at about 12:00 pm on Friday, 28 August. The cause of the accident has still not been ascertained by the AIB.
An aviation expert, Alex Nwuba, explained why no black box was found at the site of the crash:
‘A Flight Data Recorder (FDR) is not found in every aircraft. The Bell 206 is certified at approximately 3,350lbs which is 1519kg and therefore does not require an FDR. But this is a commercial aircraft operated by two pilots with more than six seats so there must be a cockpit voice recorder.
‘But for flight data recorder for which records parameters of flight, the requirement is for usually ten seats.
‘In the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 6, Parts 1 and 2, Part 1 applies to commercial aircraft; Part 2 is for non-commercial operations. The basic standards for both parts are essentially similar, calling for: Type I flight data recorders to be installed in all aircraft first issued individual certificates of airworthiness on or after January 1, 1989, with maximum certificated takeoff weights (MCTW) over 27,000 kg (59,525 lbs)
‘Type IA FDRs be installed in all aircraft issued certificates of airworthiness after January 1, 2005, with maximum certificated takeoff weights exceeding 5,700 kg (12,566 lbs). We generally adopt ICAO standards.’
Reacting to speculations that the crashed aircraft was declared non-airworthy three years ago by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and that its owners tricked the agency into obtaining operational license, the airline told the Sun that its aircraft went through very rigourous regulation before it was approved by the NCAA.
‘There is no iota of truth in the reports that our aircraft was declared non-airworthy and NCAA was tricked into giving us operational license.
‘There is no aircraft in Nigeria that does not pass through very rigourous procedure before it is allowed to fly and we are not an exception. Our license is valid and was obtained after we had passed all the necessary checks and our current license will expire in November,’ the airline stated.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, has expressed saddeness over the crash.
Nnaji also extended his sympathy to the families of the three deceased occupants of the ill fated helicopter as well as the management and staff of Quorom Aviation.
He said: ‘We must also be thankful to God that we didn’t record any ground cadislity adding that It was a great miracle that such crash could occur within a residential area in a city so populated like Lagos without any ground casualties.’
He, however, urged the AIB and other relevant agencies to do their best to unravel the cause of the accident, saying it is regrettable that the crash occurred just a few minutes to the final destination which was Murtala Muhammed Airport after flying several nautical miles all the way from Port Harcourt.
Nnaji equally appealed to the members of the public to always avoid crowding a site when crashes occur because their lives could be endangered.
The lawmaker said he was surprised at the crowd that besieged the scene of the crash and added that there is urgent need to enlighten the public on the consequences of crowding air crash scene due to the danger of explosion that may occur.
He further noted that such usual rush could equally impede proper investigation in the event that certain components that could aid investigation get tampered with.