Dana Air management, yesterday commented extensively on the crash of its MD 83 jet in Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos, killing 153 people on board. The Director of Operation of the airline, Capt Oscar Wason, in a press briefing said the airplane was 22 years old and acquired from Alaska Airlines in the USA four years ago, via a third party.
According to him, the aircraft was in perfect airworthiness condition before it crashed, stressing that it was not the same airplane that suffered hydraulic failure few weeks ago as being speculated in many quarters.
“The one that had hydraulic problem was 5N-SRI while the one that crashed was 5N-RAM. I personally flew the crashed one on Saturday to Ibadan for operational checks and it was fine. It later flew the routes it was to fly. On Sunday morning it departed Lagos by 7.47am as flight 998 to Abuja and came back to Lagos as flight 997. It later did another flight to Abuja as flight 993 and crashed on landing in Lagos as flight 992,” he stated.
He explained that contrary to speculations, the aircraft and its crew had full insurance cover, as it could not fly an aircraft without adequate insurance, at variance with the requirements of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
“Captain Wason said: “DANA Air aircraft are insured with the crew members. It is unthinkable for anybody to insinuate that our aircraft or the crew members were not insured. That is not true, there is no way the NCAA will allow such in Nigeria. For us at DANA Air, 22 years as the age of the aircraft is not an issue, because it was in a perfect airworthiness condition. We got the aircraft, a Boeing MD 83 aircraft from an entity close to Alaska Airlines, which flew the aircraft for some years before it phased it out, about four years ago.”
Wason also confirmed that officials of the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were on ground to handle the investigation with officials of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA) helping to coordinate information on the accident. He said it was usual for people to express anger which could be false in crisis time, urging Nigerians to be patient with the company.
The director of flight operations of DANA Air explained that the airline management was meeting with officials of NCAA and the Aviation Ministry on how to address issues arising from the crash. He said about 94 bodies had been recovered and taken to Ikeja General Hospital, for proper identification and documentation, before it could be released to family members for burial. He said the bodies that may have burnt beyond recognition would have to undergo DNA test for proper identification.
He said : “ The first phase of recovery is to recover the bodies, once that has been done properly, they will be released for burial. But for those we cannot ascertain, there will be DNA test. So, it is too early to determine the cause of the crash. The black box has not been found, only a computer item was found. Only the tail section of the aircraft survived. No aircraft will fly if it is not airworthy. We do not take risk with peoples lives.”
Meanwhile, in a press statement issued by the chairman of the airline, Jacky Hathiramani, he said : “ The DANA Air family is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of the passengers and crew members of flight 9J-922 of Sunday, June 3, 2012. The aircraft, with registration number 5N- RAM, departed Abuja for Lagos with 146 passengers on board. One DANA Air flight engineer, two pilots and four cabin crew were also aboard the flight.
We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased and we are going to do everything we can to assist them in this extremely difficult times. An investigation into the cause of the accident got underway immediately, under the guidance of the NCAA, who are being assisted by investigators from the United States National Safety Transportation Board. DANA Air is cooperating fully and assisting the investigations in every possible way,” he said.