One year after, no final report on Bristow crash
• We’ve concluded investigations, says AIB
• Experts differ on quality of probe
A year after the crash of a Bristow helicopter on August 12, 2015, the nation still awaits the final report on the accident.
Twelve persons were onboard the Sikorsky S-76C+ helicopter when it dropped off the sky into the lagoon at the Oworonshoki area of Lagos. The pilot and three others died.
Stakeholders in the nation’s aviation sector who expressed discontent over the alleged delay in ascertaining the true cause of the crash, condemned what they said was the refusal of regulatory agencies to freeze Bristow Helicopters’ operations, while investigations progressed.
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), however, said it had concluded an investigation into the cause of the crash.
Asked why they were not bothered by the prolonged enquiry and about near-crashes of their helicopters, sources at Bristow said it would be professionally wrong to comment on the matter while a final verdict was being expected. They insisted that AIB and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) were in better position to speak on the issue.
Officials of the AIB told The Guardian that the bureau had released the initial interim statement to mark the first anniversary of the incident and was ready to send a draft report to stakeholders for reviews and comments, prior to the release of a final report.
Stressing that the August incident was the second in six months, a pilot who spoke to The Guardian said that the company’s operations should have been suspended till investigations were concluded.
Regulatory agencies, including the NCAA, however, disagreed with the expert, who asked not to be named.
The ill-fated flight was coming from an offshore oil rig (SEDCO Express) and heading to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. The incident was predated by an earlier crash, involving a Sikorsky 76 C+, which led to the loss of six lives.
AIB, in its first interim statement, said it had completed investigations and had initiated a follow-up action on interim safety recommendation 2015-009 with Sikorsky through the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The Spokesman of the bureau, Tunji Oketunbi, said the report would be sent to stakeholders for review and comments within 60 days, after which a final report would be released.
The stakeholders include Bristow, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the manufacturing company based in the United States, as required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) regulations.
A senior captain said that in other climes, “When such accidents happen, involving similar aircraft, an investigation starts. In fact, one accident is enough to start an investigation. It is a regulatory standard. With two accidents, it cannot be a coincidence. So, it becomes a serious case.”
But another pilot, Capt. Mustapha Usman, faulted this stance. He said the decision to shut an airline must have a cogent reason based on findings, not mere suspicions.
A top official of NCAA reiterated that the agency followed the standard procedure in investigating accidents, thus the clean bill of health given to Bristow.