*Commissioner of AIB, Mr. Akin Olateru

The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and Air Peace are locked in a bitter dispute over claims and counter-claims of concealing accident or serious incident reports.

The bureau had, in its statement ‘Re: Serious incident involving Air Peace aircraft Boeing 737-300 with registration marks 5N-BUK’ expressed displeasure over the airline’s failure to file reports of incidents involving its aircraft as required by law.

“On the 5th of June 2019, the Bureau received notification about a serious incident involving a Boeing 737-300 aircraft with Registration Marks 5N-BUK, belonging to Air Peace Limited from a passenger onboard.

“It was reported that the said incident occurred on Wednesday, 15th May 2019, while the aircraft was on approach to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos from Port Harcourt. The aircraft was said to have experienced a hard landing as it touched down on the runway (18R).

“Upon receipt of the notification, the Bureau visited Air Peace Limited office and confirmed the said occurrence. The Bureau further conducted a damage assessment on the aircraft, which revealed that the aircraft made contact on the runway with the starboard engine cowling as obvious from various scrapes, scratches and dents, an evidence of tyre scouring on the sidewalls of the No. 4 tyre as well as bottoming of the main landing gear oleo struts. There was also visible damage to the right-hand engine compressor blades.

“The aircraft has since been on ground, awaiting implementation of the hard landing inspections recommended by the aircraft manufacturer, the Boeing Company. This includes an inspection of the right-hand engine pylons and the wing root, due to the heavy impact concerns.

“Further discussions with the Maintenance Personnel of Air Peace Limited revealed that CFM International, the engine manufacturer, has also been contacted with regard to necessary inspections, to ascertain the serviceability of the starboard engine.

“The nature of the damage suggest that, there was a high probability of an accident as captured in the definition of Serious Incidents in the Bureau’s Civil Aviation (Investigation of Air Accidents and Incidents) Regulations 2016 viz:

“Of utmost concern is the fact that till date, the Accident Investigation Bureau has received no notification of the incident: three weeks after the date of occurrence, contrary to ICAO Annex 13 which guides the operations of aircraft accident investigation procedures.

“Rather, the Bureau further to the occurrence, received a submission of a ‘Mandatory Occurrence Report’(MOR) subsequently filed at NCAA, on 7th June 2019, which filing was as a direct result of the Bureau’s visit to Air Peace office on the 6th day of June 2019.

“Similarly, and in recent times, an aircraft belonging to Air Peace Limited was also involved in a serious incident and the airline willfully failed to comply with the provisions of the Bureau’s Regulations.

“Precisely, on December 14th, 2018, a Boeing 737-300 belonging to the airline, with registration marks 5N-BUO, en route Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu from Lagos was involved in a serious incident at about 10:44hrs. The information only got to the Bureau through the social media.

Whist the Bureau was not notified of the occurrence until later in the evening, AIB investigators met the aircraft at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) apron in Lagos where it was parked with the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) affected, thereby posing an undesirable difficulty in the Bureau’s bid to successfully discharge its statutory mandate of investigating accidents and serious incidents.

A careful investigation of the incident by the Bureau, revealed that the aircraft was relocated from Enugu where the incident occurred, back to Lagos: and all relevant information on the CVR was over written, thereby making it impossible for the Bureau to retrieve the actual data.

“The accountable manager and chief pilot of Air Peace Limited at the material time, were duly warned by the Bureau for non-compliance with the Regulations.

“Based on all the foregoing, it is obvious that Air Peace management lacks the full understanding of the statutory mandates, functions and procedures of the bureau,” said AIB.

In its reaction, the airline said AIB’s statement was not issued in good faith.

It said AIB’s statement “is a misrepresentation of facts concerning the incidents in question.”

It stated that the “AIB grossly misrepresented the facts when it alluded that the airline only reported the incident after the Bureau’s team visited its corporate headquarters in Lagos on June 6, 2019, which was about three weeks after the incident.

It stated that on the night of May 15, 2019, an Air Peace Boeing 737-300 with registration number 5N – BUK made a hard landing in Lagos on account of sudden change in weather at the point of touch down.

But contrary to what the bureau said, the carrier said “Air Peace duly notified the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) of the incident on May 16, 2019, before it followed up with a written communication and subsequently filed an MOR on May 17, 2019, with reference number APL/QM/279/19.

“The said MOR filed by the airline was received and signed for by the NCAA on the same date.

“The airline complied with the statutory time-lime for the filing of MOR,” it added.

The airline said “it is still in shock over the deliberate misrepresentation of facts by the AIB” and questioned the motive behind the press statement.

It queried: “Was the press statement intended to scare the flying public against an airline that has consistently demonstrated zero tolerance for unsafe practices?”

The airline also expressed surprise that the bureau exhumed an incident, which occurred on December 14, 2018, en route Enugu Airport, during which oxygen masks were automatically deployed as a result of change in cabin pressure.

The airline said matters related masks dropping during flight “is not peculiar to Air Peace, but common to airlines the world over.”

The airline questioned if “it is not an aberration for an Accident Investigation Bureau to do acts capable of not only misleading the flying public, but also deliberately creating unnecessary fear in their minds.”

The airline alleged that it was being targeted.