NCAA suspends Bristow Helicopters’ Aircraft Type
Category : Air Crash
NCAA suspends Bristow Helicopters’ Aircraft Type
By Ofonime Essien
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CONSIDERING the frequency of air crashes involving Bristow Helicopter, two in less than six months, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) yesterday suspended the use of the brand of the ditched aircraft by the airline.
According to NCAA, the suspension will enable the authority to carry out a full-scale audit on the airline’s operations with particular emphasis on its Sikorsky S-76C++ type.
A Bristow helicopter with registration No. 5NBJQ on Wednesday had a controlled ditching in the Atlantic Ocean. The helicopter was on its way to Lagos from an offshore platform in Port Harcourt before it landed in water.
The aircraft, a Sikorsky S-76C++, had departed on a routine crew transfer flight offshore with nine passengers and a crew of two.
Addressing journalists at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, the Director General of NCAA, Captain Muhtar Usman, stated that the decision was without prejudice to the investigations being conducted by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).
“As a matter of fact, it will serve to assist in the entire process. NCAA will fully support AIB in the investigation”, he added.
Usman noted that the suspension was a precautionary step in line with international practices, adding that the planned audit did not in any way show that they were just waking up to their responsibility.
According to him, audit is a periodic exercise carried out to ascertain the safety of airlines in the country.
His words: “The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has therefore decided to suspend the operation of the Bristow Helicopters Limited’s Sikorsky S-76C++ type till further notice.
“Therefore, the Regulatory Authority views with utmost seriousness the successive mishaps of Bristow Helicopters’ operating aircraft SikorskyS-76C++ on the coastal waters of Lagos.”
Also, giving the brief background on the Sikorsky S-76 aircraft, he explained that it was an American medium – size commercial utility helicopter manufactured by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.
He added that Sikorsky’s development began in the mid-1970s with the goal of providing a medium helicopter for corporate transportation for the oil drilling industry. The prototype first flew on March 13, 1977, while initial United States Federal Aviation Administration type certification was granted on November 21, 1978, he said.
In August, 2015, a Bristow Helicopter-operated Sikorsky S-76 series crashed around Oworonshoki axis in Lagos, with six survivors and, another incident barely six months after.
Usman stated: “Therefore as a responsible regulatory authority, it is important to stem this rapidity of occurrence and ensure the airline carry out safe operations. I must also mention that this suspension of operations for the impending wholesale audit is not a vote of no confidence in the airline. It is to ascertain the adequacy and propriety of the operating aircraft type.”
According to him, this is not new in the industry but one of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) all over the world.
“Once again, let me reiterate that NCAA, will continue to ensure our airline operators continue to carry out safe and secure operations,” he said.
The withdrawal of the operating licence of Bristow has underscored the strategic importance of the document in ensuring and promoting safety and efficiency in the aviation sector. According to the NCAA, this is why the agency has elevated the issue of constant training and re-training of personnel operating in the sector.
The agency’s spokesperson, Sam Adurogboye, told The Guardian yesterday that capacity training was an essential criterion in renewal and issuance of operational licences.
His words: “If you don’t go for training and re-training your operational licence could be reviewed or withdrawn.”
As part of the audit that will follow the crash, Adurogboye said the manufacturers of the chopper were due in the country to examine the wreckage for the purpose of determining what probably went wrong with the engine.
AIB has said that it is premature to link the cause of Wednesday’s crash to the one that happened from the fleet of the airline in Lagos last August. The spokesman for AIB, Tunji Oketunbi, told The Guardian yesterday that until the report of investigation into the Wednesday incident had been completed, no investigation could be reached.
“It may appear that the causes are similar, but we have to lay all the facts on the table, to see if the trends are the same. Until we have done this, it will be difficult to come to that conclusion,” Oketunbi said.
NCAA has commended all the teams involved in the rescue operation of the 11 passengers in the ill-fated Bristow helicopter, noting that the successful rescue was due to the mock exercise involving all safety and rescue providers in the aviation sector carried out in Lagos barely a week ago.
According to Adurogboye, the mock exercise was part of a contingent plan aimed at preparing search and rescue providers for eventualities like the Bristow crash, adding that even though the exercise was very costly, it indeed paid off with the safety and rescue of the accident victims.
Meanwhile, Bristow has reacted to the NCAA suspension. The airline through Mr. Cornelius Onuoha yesterday in a reply to The Guardian’s enquiry, asking for its comment on the suspension by the NCAA, said that the agency suspended only the operation of the particular helicopter brand Sikorsky S-76C in its fleet. It was the same Sikorsky S-76C helicopter model that crashed into the Lagos Lagoon in the Oworosoki area of the state, last August.
The statement read in part: “Bristow Helicopters (Nigeria) Limited confirmed that following standard practice, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has advised Bristow to temporarily stop operation of the Sikorsky S-76C family of aircraft in Nigeria.”
In an earlier telephone conversation with The Guardian, Onuoha made it emphatically clear that Bristow’s flight operation was not suspended, but that it was only the operation of that Sikorsky S-76 family that was suspended. The firm also said it was working with all the relevant agencies investigating the incident.
“We are continuing to cooperate fully with the NCAA and the Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau (NAIB) in its investigation concerning the Bristow helicopter that was involved in the controlled water landing near Lagos on Feb. 3, 2016.”
Source: The Guardian