Vanguard (Lagos)

17 December 2012

Nigeria: Crashed Helicopter Certified to Fly, Says Navy

The Nigerian Navy said, Monday, that contrary to insinuations that the Augusta 105 helicopter that crashed in Okoloba community in Bayelsa state killing Kaduna state governor, Patrick Yakowa and General Owoye Azazi had engine problems, the helicopter was certified to fly by a 'Certified Technical Support Engineer'.

It said the helicopter 'had her last scheduled routine maintenance concluded on 19th November 2012 by certified technical support engineer' adding that "when the aircraft crashed, it was having more than 80 flight hours before the next scheduled routine maintenance'.

However, the Nigerian Navy has constituted an accident investigation board to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the unfortunate incident.

"Therefore, the Nigerian Navy will not want to pre-empt the findings of the investigation".

"Membership of the board includes aircraft investigation specialists, Augusta Westland, manufacturers of the aircraft and other aviation regulatory agencies as provided for by extant regulations. It is expected that the board will come out with remote and immediate causes of the accident with far reaching recommendations that will forestall future occurrences".

Nigerian Navy Augusta Helicopter that crashed on Saturday.

Chief of Training and Operations at Naval headquarters, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor who made the disclosure in Abuja said, "Nigerian Navy helicopters including the NN07 that crashed are properly maintained and serviced regularly in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications."

"In line with this, the Nigerian Navy conducts routine maintenance on helicopters in conjunction with the aircraft manufacturers, Augusta Westland. In other to ensure serviceability of helicopters, a certified technical support engineer from Augusta Westland is retained in Nigeria by the Navy at huge cost to support maintenance efforts".

"The engineer in collaboration with Nigerian navy aircraft engineers certifies the air worthiness of the helicopters before any deployment".

Regarding experience of pilots, the CTOP said, "As at the time of the incident, the helicopter had flown 1, 704 flight hours. The Nigerian Navy pilots are very experienced. In fact, the Captain in Command has flown over 800 hours while the Co-pilot had flown over 300 hours".

"All our pilots are trained in the best aviation institutions all over the world. Additionally, spare parts for the helicopters are obtained from the manufacturers, Augusta Westland, and or its approved maintenance center worldwide' he said.

Disclosing that maintaining an air arm in the Nigerian Navy was not an aberration, Ogbor said, "It is pertinent to note that navies worldwide maintain air assets in support of their maritime operations. Such navies include the Royal Navy, Australian Navy, Malaysian Navy, South African Navy and Egyptian Navy to mention a few".

"The aircraft are used in vectoring ships for interdiction and interception operations. Considering our vast maritime domain, the Nigerian Navy employs helicopters to enhance its maritime capability by utilizing the speed and long range of the helicopters".

On the crash proper, Admiral Ogbor said, "It is important to emphasize here that when the incident occurred at about 3. 30pm, the report was on air in various media houses in the evening of the same day as released by the naval headquarters."

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