Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has revived the N2.09 billion ($5.8 million) worth of Flight Safety Laboratory equipment erstwhile abandoned at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.
With the revival and full complement of trained staffers to handle it, the facility can now support the conduct of accident investigation locally, saving Nigeria the hassles and cost of taking accident wreckage abroad for analysis.
Meanwhile, the bureau has attributed the backlog of unreleased accident investigation reports to perennial paucity of funds, poor allocation and inadequate capacity at the bureau.
The Flight Safety Laboratory equipment was installed in 2012 courtesy of a contract with a Canadian firm, CEA/Flightscape. It was, however, abandoned a year later due to low capacity of the handling staffers.The Commissioner of AIB, Akin Olateru, at the end of a recent weeklong training, facilitated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and Singaporean Government, said the equipment was now ready for use.
Olateru told reporters that the laboratory was designed to download information from Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) among others, which are necessary requirements for a thorough and accurate accident investigation.
He added that the facility was used to download the flight recorders of Associated Airlines’ aircraft crash of October 2013 with the assistance of the manufacturers of the laboratory despite the fact that the agency had not effected full payment.
He regretted that since the single exercise in 2013, the facility had not been put to proper use due to lack of in-house human capacity to manage the laboratory, adding that there were also challenges from the manufacturer’s end.Olateru said he had made it a priority to resuscitate the laboratory since he came onboard, considering its importance to the discharge of AIB’s responsibilities.
He said: “I galvanised all the necessary quarters to achieve this mission. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Singaporean government agreed to help.
“First, I charged our ICT compound to get the laboratory running, which they successfully did. So, I can confidently tell you that the laboratory is working.However, we need the in-house capacity to manage it and maximise the benefits of the facility. This is where ICAO has come in.”
Olateru stressed that the optimum performance of the laboratory was central to the bureau’s contribution to safety in Nigeria and the sub-region, adding that the management was not unaware of the expectation of ICAO and the West African sub-region from Nigerian AIB. He said the agency was determined to meet these expectations, and to this effect, AIB was more determined to meet the expectations of Nigerians to have early release of accident reports.
“One of my cardinal programmes since I resumed as the chief executive here is to ensure that all outstanding reports are released at the earliest possible time. This is one critical way of affecting aviation safety positively.”To this end we are engaging all necessary quarters to ensure that our investigators, who have not been trained since they were employed about four years ago, are well trained as investigators.
“It must be said that the financial situation of the bureau calls for urgent attention by the government considering the fact that accident investigation is a social responsibility of the government worldwide,” he said.
ICAO representative at the five-day training, Caj Frostel, commended the AIB management for the great efforts it made to ensure that the facility was functional considering its importance to safety in the sub-region.
An expert on Flight Safety Laboratory and the head of the Air Accident Investigation department of Singapore Transport Safety Board, Michael Toft, said he was impressed with laboratory, which was the same with that of Singapore, “if not better”.