Accident Investigation Bureau, Nigeria (AIB-N) has released four preliminary reports on serious incidents and accidents involving aircraft owned and operated by United Nigeria Airlines Limited, Max Air, Air Peace, and the Nigerian Police Air Wing.
A Bell Helicopter with registration number: 5N-MDA belonging to the Nigeria Police crashed in Bauchi State on January 2022, with six people on board comprising three passengers and three crew members. However, there were injuries but no fatality.
Releasing a preliminary report on the incident three months after, the AIB-N said the police’s helicopter, which departed the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, (NAIA), Abuja to Maiduguri on a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight plan with a planned technical stop at Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Airport, Bauchi crashed at 19:47hrs in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC).
The AIB-N blamed the incident on a breakdown of onboard equipment and communication gaps between the crew and control towers.
The report stated that at 17:50hrs, the tower cleared the aircraft to Abuja control zone boundary en route to Bauchi, not above 5,500ft and to standby lift.
It said the tower then passed prevailing wind as 110/04kts and further cleared the helicopter to lift, left turn out after lift in which the pilot responded in affirmative.
The report stated that the crew further stated that at 18:40hrs when they were abeam Jos Airport, they made attempt again to establish two-way communication with Jos tower, but proved abortive.
However, despite this, the flight still continued as filed, but at 18:46hrs, the helicopter tried to establish initial contact with Bauchi tower on 124.5 MHz without response.
This, the report said the crew continued its failed attempt to establish two-way communication with the Jos tower every five-minute intervals until they got to the Bauchi control zone boundary, yet, continued with preparations for landing with the belief that even if the tower was closed, provided the airport was illuminated, they could land.
Unfortunately, at 5 NM to Bauchi, there was no sign of any lighting at the airport as the entire airport was in complete darkness.
The helicopter descended to 3,000ft and positioned for the runway centerline using Global Positioning System (GPS), but the pilot was able to have visual contact with the runway centerline, which he later lost due to darkness and later initiated a ‘go around.’
The report added: “During the final approach to land at the third attempt, the PM suddenly saw a tree on its flight path, which was neither detected by the GPWS nor the Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS). The crew verified that both systems were certified functional prior to the flight, also the Aural Warning (AW) did not sound and the visual display didn’t indicate that the aircraft was approaching an obstacle.
The report explained that at 19:47hrs, as the crew pulled up to avoid the tree, one of the main rotor blades hit the branches of the tree, while the helicopter tail rotor struck the tree, which resulted in the accident.
“At that moment when the skid of the helicopter had contact with the ground, Bauchi tower called 5N-MDA on the radio “Aircraft calling Bauchi tower” and the PM replied, “we are on the ground.” Bauchi Tower further asked “confirm on ground air force side? “, but the crew did not respond. The crew and passengers disembarked without injury.”
The report stated that the helicopter was substantially damaged due to the impact of the accident.
AIB-N issued 11 safety recommendations to the Nigerian Police Air Wing (NPAW), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
It asked the Air Wing to always adhere to the applicable provisions of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig. CARs 2015) sub-part 8.6 on Flight Planning and Supervision, while also ensuring that its flight crew take cognisance and adheres strictly to the operating hours of destination and alternate airfields before the commencement of flights.
It said NAMA on the other hand should ensure adequate and timely coordination of Visual Flight Rule (VFR) flights between departure and destination aerodromes and also ensure that VFR flight operations are conducted within the weather minima and specified for such operations.
For NCAA, AIB-N recommended that the agency should ensure that NAMA always verifies that all VFR flights arrive at destinations within the operational duty hours of the destination airport and that the conduct of the flight meets the minimum VFR flights requirements, in accordance with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig. CARs 2015) and Nigerian Aerospace Management Agency’s approved manuals.
Other reports are the Serious Incident involving Max Air Boeing 737-300 aircraft, which was parked at Abuja airport with nationality and registration marks 5N-DAB and involved in an on-ground collision with Skyway Aviation Handling Co. Plc (SAHCO) lavatory service truck with fleet number 9/5 on 21st November 2021.
Another preliminary report issued was on the Serious Incident involving the United Nigeria Airlines Embraer 145LR aircraft with nationality and registration marks 5N-BWW, which was climbing out of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Nigeria when a serious incident occurred at about 4,000 feet on 17th November 2021.
The last was on the serious incident involving a Boeing 737-300 aircraft owned and operated by Air Peace Limited with nationality and registration marks 5N-BUQ, which occurred after take-off from Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, Nigeria enroute Lagos on 22nd November 2021.