“A lot are still needed to be done to sustain the safety we have in the aviation industry by Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd)”
The stakeholders in aviation industry disparaged the poor state of the runway, Instrument Landing System (ILS) and other facilities at the Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Omagwa, Rivers State, noting that urgent action must be taken to prevent further loss of lives and properties at that airport.
The Aviation stakeholders made the called during the two-day ‘Industry Engagement on the Review of Accident Reports’ event which was organised by the Accident Investigation Bureau Nigeria (AIB-N) held at Abuja both physical and virtual.
According to the organizer, the two-day event was designed to ‘reviewed no fewer than eight final reports on accidents and serious incidents within aviation sector recently released by the AIB-N’ which stakeholders at that event applauded Bureau for the churning out numerous safety recommendations that will improve safety of the Airspace business.
In what you may call it unanimously situation, all the stakeholders at the event observed that the number of serious incidents and accidents that have occurred at the Port Harcourt airport over the years had made the flying to the airport unsafe for the air travellers.
The panelists which was drawn from Nigerian aviation industry recalled that the most fatal crash at the airport was the Sosoliso crash of December 2005 which killed 107 people have raised concerns over deplorable safety critical facilities at the airport.
All the participants of the event reiterated that the Port Harcourt Airport is a no go-area for flight services.
According to a retired pilot with over 40 years of flying experience among them, acknowledge that the Port Harcourt Airport remained the same unattended with difficult approach. There are trees all over the space as you are approached landing and it is even more difficult at night without guiding lights and the airport still open to business till today, he added.
Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), an Aviation Security Consultant and Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) and one of the discussants, noted that most of the accidents that happened at Port Harcourt airport were identical and preventable if only, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and other government agencies had done their due diligence.
He further said necessary things are not always done when these serious incidents or accidents occur in the country. What is the category of ILS in Port Harcourt Airport? Whose responsibility is it to calibrate the ILS especially those at Port Harcourt Airport.
The group Captain queried by said “If it’s a military environment, you can say they have signed to die, but what about the civilians? Most of the foreign registered aircraft that we are using for commercial flights who does due diligence on them? For how long are they supposed to remain in Nigeria flying? A lot are still needed to be done to sustain the safety we have in the industry.
While Engr. Gbolahan Abatan, noted that that airport should have been shut at the time of Hawker Siddeley HS -125-800XP serious incident in June 2005. I did not know why NCAA still allowed flying services into the airport? he added.
Nevertheless, General Manager, Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC) and Airworthiness, NCAA, Engr. Godwin Balang, said that Port Harcourt Airport is safe for flying and dismissed the notion that the regulatory body (NCAA) was not carrying out its functions critically at the airport as it supposed.
He further noted that building an airport and maintain is not easy adding that many of the airports in the country operate on cost recovery. He reiterated that Port Harcourt Airport is safe for flight services. Though Port Harcourt Airport is not yet certified by NCAA, Balang added.
He also disclosed that only Abuja and Lagos airports are certified in the country.
While reacting to questions, he disclosed that NCAA had implemented over 70 percent of safety recommendations from AIB in recent years.
He pointed out that out of a total 37 safety recommendations sent to NCAA, the body had fully implemented 29, two were partially closed while the authority disagreed with five others.
Mr Balang disclosed that the level of collaboration between NCAA and AIB-N is very encouraging and urge the two agencies to even improve more to deepening safety operations within aviation industry.
The Panelists suggested that if airport lack proper facilities, instead of toys with human life, NCAA should close the airport to avoid any major accident, until all necessary facilities are in place for safety of air travellers.
They also called for periodically inspections and maintenance of all facilities at Airports across the country.
They also said that NCAA and FAAN should be held responsible for the safety airports operations across the country.
The complaints of pilots not take advice of the controller as it regards to bad weather, should be taking seriously, they noted.
According to Mr Tunji Oketunbi, General manager and corporate affairs of the Bureau, saying under the able leadership of Engr Akin Olateru, we have the statistics to support the paradigm shift in Nigerian Accident Investigation so far, which has received local and international acclaim.
Beyond these, he said, incredible infrastructural and manpower development have taken place, thereby putting AIB-N among the foremost accident investigation bodies, not only in the region but in the world.
In AIB-N, mr Oketunbi further said “we have the men, we have the infrastructure, we have the processes, we have the system, we have the connections and above all we have the support of responsible stakeholders.”
“Investigation and analysis of safety occurrences is an essential ingredient of the overall risk management process in Aviation.”