The Accident and Investigation Bureau says the chartered Carverton helicopter crash of February 2, 2019 involving Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) was caused by inappropriate landing techniques and non-adherence to company procedures by the pilots.
The Commissioner of the bureau, Akin Olateru, said this on Tuesday during a media briefing on the release of four accident occurrence reports at the agency’s headquarters.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Agusta Westland 139 chopper with registration number 5N-CML owned and operated by Caverton Helicopters Limited had crash-landed at Kabba Stadium in Kogi State.
The chopper had on board Osinbajo and 11 others, including the crew members.
He was scheduled to inaugurate the distribution of Trader’s Money to market women in Kogi State.
Despite the incident, Osinbajo went ahead with his functions.
Olateru explained: “On February 2, 2019, at about 0726 hours, an Agusta Westland (AW139) helicopter with nationality and registration marks 5N-CML operated by Caverton Helicopters Limited departed Lagos for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
“This was to conduct a VIP charter flight from Abuja to Okene via Kabba and return to Abuja.
“The positioning flight to Abuja was normal.
“The helicopter was refuelled and the flight crew prepared for the VIP charter flight to Kabba.
“At about 1346 hours, the helicopter departed Abuja runway 22 for Kabba.
“On board were 12 persons, including the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, his entourage and three crew members (Pilot, Co-pilot and an engineer).
“The flight crew stated that they sighted the intended landing area as a result of the cloud of residual dust generated by the downwash of a Police helicopter.
“After sighting the football field, the flight crew approached with the speed of 20 kt to about a 100ft, and entered a hover to land.
“At about 50 ft above ground level, a brownout set in.”
According to Olateru, the flight crew lost visual contact with the ground and external surroundings and the Co-pilot began radio altitude callouts: “35, 30, 25, 20 and 15.”
He added: “At about 1434 hours, the helicopter experienced a hard landing on the right main landing gear and rolled over onto its right side.
“All persons on board were evacuated uninjured.”
Olateru said anticipated brownout condition during landing and lack of risk assessment, limited landing site preparation and planning prior to commencement of the flight by the crew were part of the factors that contributed to the crash.
He said as part of the safety recommendations, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority was to conduct a Safety Management System audit of Caverton Helicopters.
Olateru said: “The NCAA is to ensure that the company implements the immediate safety recommendation 2019-003, the NCAA all operators Letter (FSG 002), and the recommendations documented in the Caverton Helicopters internal SMS investigation of the accident.”
He directed NCAA to also ascertain that the Caverton Helicopters internal SMS processes in the maintenance activities requires the establishment of the reasons/causes of equipment failure and the unavailability of the reasons of the failures.
Olateru said others were the final accident and serious incident reports, including those involving the Bombardier DHC-8-Q400 aircraft owned and operated by Aero Contractors Company of Nigeria Limited.
The commissioner said this was with nationality and registration marks 5N-BPU, which occurred at FL240, 80 NM to Lagos on April 18, 2017.
He said the third report was on the serious incident involving a Diamond DA-42 aircraft with Nationality and Registration Marks 5N-BNH.
According to him, the aircraft is owned and operated by the International Aviation College.
The accident occurred on Runway 23, Ilorin International Airport on May 1, 2019.
He said: “The fourth report was on the serious incident involving a Diamond DA-40 aircraft with registration Marks 5N-BRM owned and operated by International Aviation College, which occurred on Runway 23, Ilorin International Airport on March 27, 2014.”
Olateru then warned that any airline found wanting by tampering with recordings of Cockpit Voice Recorder in the event of crash or serious incident would be dealt with according to the laws of the land.
He said he had given the last warning to Air Peace Airlines that he accused of engaging in this practice and others to desist from the action that is capable of making accident probes difficult.
Olateru explained that AIB would sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Air Peace on this.
He noted that a total of 32 final reports had been released since January 2017, which makes up 62.7 per cent of AIB’s total of 51 Final Reports released since inception (2007).
Olateru said 106 safety recommendations had been issued since 2017, adding that this accounts for 56.7 per cent of the 187 reports issued since inception.
The commissioner said before the end of 2020, they should be able to release an additional six final reports to the public.