There have been mixed reactions from stakeholders in Nigeria’s aviation industry following recent public accusations brought against Air Peace Airlines by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) over alleged flagrant disregard for regulations governing the reportage of serious incidences involving its flight operations, also known as Mandatory Occurrence Reporting (MOR).
AIB in a release last week Monday accused the management of Air Peace Airline of non-disclosure of two major incidences involving its aircraft in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Nigerian civil aviation regulations. The AIB also accused Air Peace of tampering with evidences in one of those incidences that could have assisted accident investigators on their job.
Objective of MOR
The business of aviation is taken very seriously globally, a fact that prompted the United Nations to collectively establish the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), as an arm of the UN with the mandate of setting standards on safety operations and also to regulate the industry operations. In recent years, and because airlines, pilots, or airports could conceal some critical information inimical to safe flight operations, ICAO came up with some policies to allow operators freely report incidences that threaten their operations to regulators. Consequently, the Mandatory Occurrence Reporting (MOR) became one of the products of that ICAO policy.
Aviation incident is a term used to describe a ‘near-mishap’ or ‘the high probability of an accident’ on an aircraft operation and it is also used to differentiate a standard safety procedure deployed by a pilot which airlines are exempted from reporting to regulatory agencies such as air return, or go-round where there is a missed approach. The MOR is to facilitate the collection of information by regulatory agencies and accident investigators on actual or potential safety hazards and deficiencies by an airline or airports. The purpose of investigation on any MOR submitted to regulatory agencies is to identify the cause of the accident or incidence and to make safety recommendations that would prevent the re-occurrence of similar incidences in the future.
The Air Peace incidences
However, according to the AIB, on June 5, 2019, it received a notification about a serious incident involving a Boeing 737-300 aircraft with registration marks 5N-BUK, belonging to Air Peace Limited, from a passenger onboard its flight. The incident occurred on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, while the aircraft was on approach to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos from Port Harcourt. The AIB noted that the Airpeace aircraft experienced a hard landing as it touched down on the runway (18R) at the MMA.
Upon receipt of the notification, it said it visited Air Peace Limited to know why it breached industry regulations by not reporting the incident to it.
The AIB said when it later visited to inspect the aircraft, it was observed that the nature of the damage on the aircraft during that landing incident suggested that, there was a high probability of an accident as captured in the definition of ‘serious incidents’ in Civil Aviation regulations.
On the second unreported incident, the AIB said on December 14, 2018, on a Boeing 737-300 belonging to the airline, with registration marks 5N-BUO, enroute Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu from Lagos where there was a loss of cabin pressure. It regretted that the information only got to the AIB through the social media.
“A careful investigation of the incident by the Bureau, revealed that the aircraft was relocated from Enugu where the incident occurred to Lagos: and all relevant information on the CVR was over written, thereby making it impossible for the Bureau to retrieve the actual data,” the AIB said.
Air Peace responds
Air Peace in its response however sees the AIB’s query as a witch-hunt even as it alleged that the target was to scare away its passengers by creating the impression that its flights are unsafe.
“The airline has consistently demonstrated zero tolerance for unsafe practices and has reported all incidences to the NCAA?” Air Peace said.
“The MOR filed by the airline was received and signed for by the NCAA on the same date. Air Peace complied with the statutory time-lime for the filing of MOR,” the airline said.It therefore implies that the problem lies with the seemingly overlapping regulatory roles of the AIB and the NCAA as it concerns airlines and the mandatory occurrence reports (MOR). Daily Sun learnt there has been no love lost between the CEOs of the AIB and the NCAA in the last one year as a result of the implementation or enforcement of safety recommendations on accident investigations as well as the battle on who should be firmly in charge of regulating accidents and serious incidences in the Nigerian industry.
Analyst, Capt. John Ojikutu however maintains that it is wrong for the Air Peace and the NCAA not to have reported the serious incidences to the AIB.
“If after 23 days a report that involved damage to one of the engines of an airline aircraft was made to the NCAA and the NCAA and the airline still considered it unnecessary to inform or refer the incident to the AIB for investigation, that act is criminal and culpable. This industry can not continue to be governed by carelessness and recklessness of some persons without regards for the safety of the public. The Federal Ministry of Transport must intervene in this,” said Ojikutu.
Spokesman for the AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, in his reactions said the fault lies with the airlines.
“First we need to recognize that each agency (NCAA, AIB FAAN etc) has different functions and mandates. Every airline or service providers is expected to be conversant with the local laws and regulations of countries it operates,” said Oketunbi. Reporting to NCAA alone does not suffice. NCAA does not have the power to investigate serious incidents or accidents. AIB does not regulate.
“Between AIB and NCAA, we know which investigation to leave for NCAA or the ones to take over by AIB following ICAO Annex 13. By the Civil Aviation Law, the AIB Commissioner/CEO has the prerogative to investigate even a minor incident if he thinks there is any safety value to benefit from such investigation. Emotion has no place in accident investigation,” Oketunbi added.