The pioneer Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Angus Ifeanyi Ozoka, who headed the investigative panel on the Sosoliso plane crash in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, said power failure at the airport, was responsible for the accident that occurred six years ago.
On December 10, 2005, a Sosoliso Airlines flight full of school children from Abuja to Port Harcourt crashed killing 107 people, including famous cleric, Bimbo Odukoya.
Although the government is yet to make the crash report public, Mr Ozoka, who addressed journalists in Abuja on how to improve safety in the aviation industry against the backdrop of the recent Dana air crash said at the point of landing, the pilot of the doomed Sosoliso aircraft lost sight of the runway because there was no diesel to power the generator for the runway lights.
“From the way we concluded our report after several months of investigations, the aircraft was coming to land, it didn’t have the runway in sight,” he said.
“It couldn’t see the runway as it was raining very heavily. The runway lights were not on because at the Port Harcourt Airport they were trying to save fuel.
“In the day time, they would switch off the generator, if there was no electricity and at night they would not switch on the generator except a pilot requested when he was approaching.
“So when the plane was at 8 nautical miles from the airport, it called and asked if it was raining, they told him no precipitation, they gave him the wind direction and speed, until the plane got to the decision altitude and went below it.
“The plane crashed on the grass side and disintegrated into a total wreckage site of 1.2 kilometres.
“First, the plane touched the ground, then it bounced into an exposed concrete drainage where the number two engine and staircase were dislodged in that concrete and started disintegrating into pieces, with total land wreckage of 1.2km. In that situation, it was difficult to fight a fire over a spread of 1.2km,” he said.
A similar account on the possible cause of the Sosoliso plane crash was given by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who in their report said that the pilot was racing a thunderstorm’ nearing the airport.
According to the report, the inclement weather forced the pilot to make an instrument landing, meaning that visibility had been reduced to the point the pilot needed to rely on instruments to make his landing.
The plane crash landed on the grass alongside the runway, broke its apart and caught fire.
Mr Ozoka advised the government to set strict conditions for all airline operators in the country saying that those who cannot meet these conditions should be allowed to wind up.
According to him, government is not Father Christmas that operators should run to for bailouts, adding that anybody who wants to venture into the aviation industry should know that the industry is both capital and labour intensive.
He said that government’s 22-year-age limit for entry of aircraft into the country should be revisited as any aircraft above 20 years is presumed to be operating above the life cycle of that aircraft.