THE Federal Government, yesterday, gave reasons why it suspended the Dana Airlines, even as it said it would soon send the two engines of the crashed Embraer 120 aircraft belonging to Associated Airline to Brazil for comprehensive analyses.
Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah said at a briefing with State House correspondents that the suspension of the operations of Dana Airlines was due to "operational issues," adding that it was to enable the regulatory body ensure that the airline met certain requirements in the industry.
On the recent crash of an aircraft belonging to the Associated Airlines, Oduah said though every step was being taken to avert plane crashes in the country, accidents in the aviation sector are "inevitable" since they are acts "of God."
She said the Dana Airlines operating licence was merely suspended, and not withdrawn noting that due process was followed in taking the action.
While dismissing criticisms trailing the suspection as "bar (beer palour) comments from drunks and addicts," Oduah said, "operational issues and the law; the policy says that the assessment, the certification is ongoing. In aviation, security and safety measures are working in progress, you don't stop. You don't say that I have attained this and so we stop, it never stops. You continuously or constantly assess operators to make sure they are in compliance.
"Nothing in aviation is ever done with fire brigade approach because there are processes and procedures; nothing at all. And their licences were not suspended, what was stopped is their operations and it was stopped because the law says that, if there is anything noticed not in tandem with the policy, the regulator must stop and re certify and make sure that there is compliance."
The minister who, however, expressed sadness over the recent crash which she said happened shortly after the International Civil Aviation Organisation recently ranked the country as being above the global average, said, "ICAO says Nigeria is the 12th most safe aviation nation globally. And then when you hear bar comments from drunks and addicts... making comments that have zero bearing on reality, it is very annoying. What I will advise the public really is to recognise the fact that aviation is a very professional area. You cannot listen to bar comments because they are just unrealistic and totally untrue.
"We do not pray for accidents but it is inevitable. We do everything to ensure that we do not have accidents, but sometimes, it is an act of God! Again, we do not speculate on the cause of accidents until (investigations are carried out).
Until that happens you can not say this is the cause or that is not the cause. But what is obvious and is the truth is that, in aviation there are shared responsibilities, starting from the man that carries your luggage to the man that makes sure that your boarding pass is issued to you. And so the regulatory agency, the operators, the management, everybody has his responsibility and all must work in tandem optimally, secure and safe aviation sector. And that is what we have been working to achieve."
The minister said the preliminary report on the crashed Associated Airlines "should be out in a couple of weeks" while the ministery awaits experts that are coming from France and the manufacturer of the aircraft to make carry out more detailed investigations. According to her, despite the recent crash, Nigeria has one of the "the safest air space. Nigerians shouldn't be afraid to fly, Nigerian airspace is very safe."
Why operations of Dana Airline: Meanwhile, a top official of AIPB disclosed, yesterday, in Abuja that Dana Airline was suspended following last Thursday's air crash in Lagos involving an Associated Airlines aircraft. Investigations by Vanguard also revealed that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, which made the announcement last Sunday took the decision after aircraft belonging to the airline were said to have been involved in air returns on two occasions following engine failure.
It was gathered that one of such incidents happened recently when an aircraft belonging to the airline which was fully loaded with passengers on the Port Harcourt-Lagos route returned to the Port Harcourt Airport following the failure of one its twin engines after it had flown about 45 nautical miles. NCAA has already confirmed that Dana Airline was suspended to enable the regulatory agency carry out a comprehensive audit of all its aircraft with a view to ascertaining their air worthiness.
However, NCAA's General Manager in charge of Public Affairs, Fan Ndubuoke, who confirmed the suspension of the Airline did not give reasons for the action. The airline's licence was suspended last year after one of its aircraft crashed into a thickly populated area in Lagos killing 153 passengers on board and several persons on the ground.
Passengers lament over grounding of Dana Air
... demand refunds of airfare
Following the grounding of Dana Airlines, hundreds of its passengers, yesterday, besieged the counter of the airline at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, MMA2, Lagos, and lamented the grounding of the airline by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, requesting that their air fares be refunded to them.
Vanguard was informed at the MMA2 terminal building that most of the passengers who had appointments to meet up with shouted at officials of the airline for their inability to airlift them to their various destinations.
It was learnt that the airline had sent some text messages to most of the passengers on Sunday night when the airline's operations was grounded by NCAA. When contacted, one of the passengers who simply identified himself as Ofor said he was disappointed the moment he got to the airport and learnt that the airline's operation had been suspended.