A cable broke in the Dana Air plane that crash-landed in Lagos on June 3, 2012, on the Wednesday preceding the crash, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) told a coroner sitting in Lagos, on Tuesday.
At the ongoing coroner’s inquest into the crash, the Agency’s General Manager (Airworthiness), Kayode Ajiboye, told the court that the aircraft underwent a mandatory test flight on June 2, 2012, a day before the Sunday crash, following the replacement of the defective cable.
Ajiboye said the defective ‘aileron’ cable was discovered during a routine inspection of the aircraft by the regulatory agency.
“The cable was discovered on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, found to have broken and it was replaced before the test flight on Saturday,” he said.
“NCAA didn’t witness the replacement”
However, in the course of cross-examination, the aviation safety inspector could not ascertain the quality of the cable replacement, adding that the aircraft was grounded “between Wednesday and the weekend that the cable was replaced”.
He testified that the replacement was carried out by myTECHNIC company, a licensed aircraft maintenance service provider based in Turkey and approved by the NCAA for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of the Dana fleet.
According to Ajiboye, the standard practice did not require the regulatory agents to personally supervise such maintenance works.
He told the court that the agency only had to rely on the report of licensed aircraft maintenance engineers, as recorded on the aircraft’s ‘tech logs’, even though he was yet to see the log since the replacement of the defective cable.
“I did not see the log, but by regulation and obligation, they (myTECHNIC) would have carried it out,” he said.
Ajiboye added that NCAA had still not had access to the log since the crash because the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which is empowered to investigate the crash, had “impounded everything”.
“…including all our files; we cannot access anything pertaining to the aircraft after the crash,” he said.
Being led by NCAA counsel, Babatunde Irukera, the aircraft safety investigator also told the court that the test flight necessary for the “Captain (of the aircraft) to ascertain that the maintenance was properly done.”
“The cable was discovered during inspection,” he said.
“We didn’t get a report about it because the pilot wasn’t feeling it since the cable has many strands and could still fly, but you don’t allow it to continue.”
Ajiboye also disclosed that the crashed McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft, registered as 5N-RAM, was supposed to be due for another routine check to renew its airworthiness certificate by December, following the last one in September 2011.
“It’s done at 15 months interval,” he added.
There were also revelations that a Dana aircraft with registration number 5N-SR1, transiting from Abuja to Lagos on May 20, 2012, had hydraulic failure, and was forced to land with manual extension.
Denying that it was the same aircraft that later crashed, Ajiboye said that the Dana aircraft that lost its hydraulic fluid was still in Turkey, where it was taken for maintenance.
Also testifying before the court, Alistair Morrison, the Managing Director of So Aviation, which supplied the crash aircraft with 4,000 litres of fuel on the evening of June 2, 2012, expressed surprise at the nature of the crash.
Both engines of the crashed aircraft were said to have failed, but Morrison said it was the first time he had heard that an aircraft lost both engines in his 35 years experience in the aviation industry.
The coroner, Alexander Oyetade Komolafe, adjourned sitting to August 8, 2012, when more agencies and companies are expected to testify.