The naval helicopter crash of Saturday in Bayelsa State has again put Nigeria’s aviation sector on the global spot.
The incident came barely two months after Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State and some of his aides narrowly escaped death in an air disaster that claimed the Cessna 208 aircraft they were flying on October 25.
Suntai and his aides sustained varying degrees of severe injuries and were later flown to Germany for treatment.
On June 3, Nigeria was thrown into total mourning as a Dana Air Boeing MD-83 plane crashed in Lagos and killed 163 people on board and a few others on ground.
Some prominent Nigerians were lost in the crash, including the Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Levi Aju-onuma.
The Dana disaster evoked memories of similar crashes of 2005 and 2006 in which three major air disasters led to the death of over 400 people within the space of one year.
On June 2, a day before the Dana crash, a Nigerian-registered cargo plane also crashed in Ghana and killed over five people on ground.
In March, a police helicopter carrying a Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr. John Haruna, and other high-ranking police officials crashed in Jos.
Harunah and his fellow passengers died.
Also sometime this year, a helicopter belonging to the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency crashed in Lagos.
Aviation industry analysts and players have said the spate of tragedies this year have thrown a lot of burden on aviation authorities who may need to do a lot to convince the international community as well as Nigerian flying public that its airspace is still safe.
There are fears in aviation quarters that the crashes will make Nigeria lose its coveted place in the international aviation community. However, some experts question this conclusion.
One of such optimists is the General Secretary, Aviation Round Table, an industry pressure group, Mr. Sam Akerele.
He said, “I don’t think this crash will affect Nigeria’s aviation rating in the international community. It is however, a signal that Nigeria should not relent in its efforts to sanitise the sector. We sympathise with the country.”
Another industry expert, who pleaded anonymity, said since it was a military helicopter that was involved in the crash, it would not affect the country’s rating.
According to him, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority does not have safety oversight over military planes.
Industry analyst and Head, Research and Statistics, Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, also said this might not affect the country’s rating in any way.
Nigeria happens to be one of only five African countries (from the 64 African countries) to have passed United States of America’s Category One Certification. The five African Countries are Cape Verde, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa.
The category one status allows the Nigerian-registered aircraft to fly directly to USA and other parts of world.
From 1967 to 2012, Nigeria recorded 131 accidents. The crashes which involved both fixed wing and helicopters led to the death of 1,166 people.