Ex-Taraba Gov, Suntai flew aircraft illegally—AIB report

Late Danbaba Suntai

… 46 Final Reports, 178 Safety Recommendations released by AIB since 2007

Posted by Sade Williams

THE Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) on Thursday said the former Taraba State Governor, Late Danbaba Suntai, who died after he was involved in a crash in 2012, was not qualified to fly the Cessna 208B Caravan.

The AIB said he was only qualified to fly Cessna 172 and has total logged flying hours of 58 hours and 40 minutes.

This was contained in the reports released by the AIB and signed by its Commissioner, Eng. Akin Olateru.

The Bureau, which released six final reports, including accident involving a Bristow Helicopters (Nigeria) Limited Sikorsky S76C++; accident involving a Cessna 208B Caravan with Nationality and Registration Marks 5N-BMJ; accident involving a Boeing MD-83 aircraft operated by Dana Airlines; Serious Incident involving an Airbus A330-223 aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines Inc; accident involving a Diamond DA40D Aircraft operated by International Aviation College (IAC) Ilorin and serious Incident involving Gulfstream G200 Aircraft Operated by Nestoil PLC, said that though, ‘it could not conclusively determine the cause of Cessna Aircraft accident that killed Suntai; however, the investigation identified that the pilot was not certified, qualified and not competent to fly the aircraft; the decision of the pilot to operate a VFR flight after sunset and inadequate oversight by the Regulatory Authority’.

It however, released two safety recommendations on the accident. It asked the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to take appropriate action to relocate the existing control tower at Yola Airport in order to enhance the aerial view of the approach path of runway 35 from the Tower.

The AIB asked the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to ensure all pertinent regulations with regards to the operations of the aircraft and certification of all relevant personnel and facilities of the Ministry of Works and Transport, Taraba State Government are appropriately complied with.


AIB noted further that ‘the pilot is qualified to fly Cessna 172 and has total logged flying hours of 58 hours and 40 minutes; the pilot has no relevant endorsement to fly Cessna Caravan 208B; the pilot does not have instrument ratings and night flight privileges; the pilot reported an incorrect estimated time of arrival (ETA at Yola as 10:01 UTC as against the time 17:19 UTC; the pilot reported the number of persons on board as 06 to the CT as against 04 actual persons found after the accident.

It added that the flight was conducted after the sunset time in Yola on the day of accident and that the Control Tower was notified about 5N-BMJ departure by phone call from Jalingo after the aircraft was airborne.

“ The Bureau was unable to interview the pilot as he was flown out of the country for further medical treatment. The pilot has completed training and obtained a Private Pilot Licence. The aircraft engine had an occurrence of engine overheat/over temperature in December 2011. It was removed and sent to an approved engine workshop in South Africa (Vector Aerospace) for complete repair and overhaul. The engine was reinstalled on the aircraft in April 2012.  The engine throttle lever was found below idle (beta) position at the crash site.  The fuel samples from both aircraft tanks meet the requirement of AFQRJOS issue 27 check list.

The AIB noted among others that the ARFFS team arrived the crash site by 19:52 h (1 hour and 20 minutes after the initial notification) and discovered that the aircraft’s occupants had been rescued from the wreckage by the locals., adding that the terminal building being renovated at Yola airport is obstructing the view of the approach path of runway 35 from the Control Tower.

Olateru, who said safety is of great importance, said the investigations are geared towards having a safe airspace for air travellers globally.

“These reports are collectively a strong pillar of safety in the aviation industry and timely release is as critical as Accident Investigation itself.  The purpose of accident investigation, however, is not to apportion blame or liability but to prevent future recurrence of similar incidents. We are today making available to the public the outcome of our investigations into four accidents and two serious incidents.

“These 6 Final Reports have generated a total of 24 Safety Recommendations, which are addressed to the regulatory body, affected airlines and airport operators and foreign agencies. With these reports we now have a total of 46 Final Reports and 178 Safety Recommendations since the inception of AIB.  These Safety Recommendations are very important towards preventing reoccurrence of similar accidents or serious incidents and when adhered to can impact air safety positively, not only in Nigeria but also globally”, he said.  

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