On October 3, 2013, an Embraer 120 aircraft belonging to Associated Airlines crashed immediately after take-off in Lagos. The aircraft was conveying the remains of former Ondo State governor, Olusegun Agagu, home for burial. Of the 20 people on board, 15 lost their lives in the crash.
About 10 days after the unfortunate incident, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) released the results of its preliminary investigation of the crash. From the AIB readout and analysis of the flight record, it appears that the crashed aircraft was not in good flying condition. Among other forewarnings, the aircraft's automated voice warning system repeatedly alerted the crew to a number of faults, notably that the auto feather flaps and the right engine propeller were not working properly. In a startling disclosure, the commissioner, AIB, Capt. Usman Muktar stated, "This warning did not appear to come as any surprise to the crew and they continued normally with the take-off. This warning continued throughout the take-off roll." Inevitably, the doomed aircraft failed to achieve full lift-off and subsequently crashed a few metres away from the airport.
Rather than "an act of God" upon which the aviation minister, Stella Oduah, hung the mishap, it is apparent, even from the AIB preliminary investigation, that this was a completely avoidable tragedy. We also differ with media reports, obviously led on by the AIB analysis, that the flight captain was solely responsible for the tragic incident, since he ignored the automated voice warning from the craft's safety system.
Without prejudice to further investigations on the matter, it appears to us that a full-blown systemic failure was the likely reason for the crash of Flight 361 on October 3. It is on record that the ill-fated aircraft had not been used for some time. In fact, aviation sources told the media that the plane was only then retuned and sitting on the tarmac, awaiting its test flights. So many questions come to mind: Were the requisite checks conducted on that aircraft before it was cleared for its doomed last flight? Who certified the aircraft fit to take to the skies? Did the inordinate urge to make a few bucks not cloud the judgement of those who put that unfit aircraft back in service? How come persistent safety-related warnings from the aircraft's system failed to surprise the crew? Could it be that the warning had become routine on the crashed craft and it had been successfully flown, regardless, in the past? What roles did all aviation agencies play in this tragic saga? Have these aviation agencies lowered their guards on safety measures in the sector?
The ongoing investigation of the crash of Flight 361 should answer these questions and many more, with a view to sanctioning those responsible for this totally avoidable tragedy and preventing a future reoccurrence.