25 January 2013

Nigeria: Aviation - House Panel's Consistent Blunder


Last week, the House Committee on Aviation reiterated its demand to see to the end of Dr Demuren's reign as the head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). The committee also reaffirmed that Dana Air would be banned from flying in our national airspace because of the June 3, 2012, fatal accident.

This show of legislative "power" undermines the core nature of the aviation industry, which is guided by rules and regulations, and overseen by a professional body that is constantly audited by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The legislators have also failed to understand the critical elements of human error as the major catalyst of over 80 per cent of all aircraft accidents.

The hasty judgment also signifies an ulterior motive, as the agency responsible for the investigation of the probable cause of the crash is yet to come up with its report. Therefore, the question is: what is the House Committee on Aviation basing its verdict on?

Or, is there more to it than meets the eye? It is absolutely unnecessary for the lawmakers to remain in perpetual darkness over this issue, when they can actually challenge or impose their overbearing authority on the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to produce the report of its findings. Without a comprehensive analysis of the probable cause(s) of the crash, any decision by the House Committee is purely victimisation and abuse of power, which could be challenged by all stakeholders in the industry.

It also appears that since the minister of aviation has performed beyond expectation, at least, in the area of infrastructure development, critics are using the House Committee as an instrument of distraction to stain the system. This is clearly visible to all; even the blind can see it.

Aviation industry in Nigeria cannot be guided by the dictates of the National Assembly, but by the laid-down rules and regulations of international aviation laws, which have been adopted to suit our local aircraft operations. These rules and regulations have been accepted and enacted in the Civil Aviation Act 2006.

The Act must be viewed and reviewed by anyone who intends to make pronouncements that affect the aviation industry in Nigeria. A contrary law requires reenactment of new laws/regulations, which must comply with international standards and accepted by the stakeholders.

An airline cannot be banned from flying because of a single accident. The report of the investigation is still uncompleted.

The Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC), which collects information about aviation accidents and safety, has published its annual Airline Safety Ranking. Flying was less deadly in 2012 than in any year since 1945, but that does not mean all airlines are equally safe.

The ratings take into account the number and deadliness of the hull losses (destroyed airplanes) they have suffered in the past 30 years, how they have fared more recently, and how many flights they have flown without incident.

The results do not take into account the cause of the hull losses, or whether the airline is at fault, so they are not a perfect measure of how safely an airline behaves.

Of 60 ranked airlines, here are the 10 with the worst safety records, including the number of hull losses since 1983, and how many fatalities they caused:

10 SkyWest Airlines: 3 hull losses; 22 dead

9 South African Airways: 1 hull loss; 159 dead

8 Thai Airways International: 5 hull losses; 309 dead

7 Turkish Airlines: 6 hull losses, 188 dead

6 Saudia: 4 hull losses; 310 dead

5 Korean Air: 9 hull losses; 687 dead

4 GOL Transportes Aéreos: 1 hull loss; 154 dead

3 Air India: 3 hull losses; 329 dead

2 TAM Airlines: 6 hull losses; 336 dead

1 China Airlines: 8 hull losses; 755 dead

Interestingly, the 10 airlines named above are still actively operating in their various countries without a single effort to ban any from flying.

Aircraft accident investigation reports are not meant to punish, ban the airline or the crew involved in the accident, but as a measure for us to learn and prevent future occurrences.

Our lawmakers should take time to understand the underlining principles of air transportation. We are not interested in political football between the executive and the legislature. The House Committee, to avoid this persistent blunder, should desist from listening to cynics in the industry. They should, on-one-to one basis, invite the regulatory authority to parley and clarify issues.

For the nation to achieve a more comprehensive result, the legislators must be open-hearted and devoid of any self-serving bias.

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