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Abuja flight diversion to Asaba: Controversy as dispatchers, controllers disagree

  As investigation is underway into Sunday’s diversion of a Lagos-Abuja bound United Nigeria Airlines flight to Asaba, controversy deepened yesterday with the flight dispatchers…

 

As investigation is underway into Sunday’s diversion of a Lagos-Abuja bound United Nigeria Airlines flight to Asaba, controversy deepened yesterday with the flight dispatchers and air traffic controllers (ATCs) disagreeing over the incident.

This is just as the United Nigeria Airlines has suspended its flight dispatcher for allegedly handling a wrong code to the crew of the NUA 0504 flight.

Findings by our correspondent revealed that the airline, which initially blamed the diversion on bad weather in Abuja, later owned up and changed the narrative.

Shocked by the embarrassment caused over the issue, the airline suspended the flight dispatcher (name withheld) pending the conclusion of the investigation.

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The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has commenced investigation into the circumstances behind the flight diversion which created confusion in the industry.

The regulatory authority has also suspended all wet-lease aircraft in the fleet of UNA pending the outcome of its investigation. The aircraft, Daily Trust reports, was handled by a foreign crew since it was acquired on a wet lease basis.

Meanwhile, the Flight Dispatchers Association of Nigeria (FLIDAN) attributed the diversion to discrepancies between the filed plan and pilot’s actions, urging investigation.

Secretary General, Victoria Adegbe, said the dispatcher adhered to NCAR Part 8 by submitting a proper flight plan to the Tower. “Departure-Lagos. Destination- Abuja, First Alternate- Enugu, Second Alternate- Port Harcourt. Time of flight: 13:00   Flight Duration: 55mins Endurance: 6 hours.”

Adegbe added that despite the favorable Abuja weather in the folder, the pilot sought clearance to fly to Asaba.

“Both Pilot and ATC didn’t follow the filed plan, implying a disregard for ‘Operational Control,’ giving the Flight Dispatcher 50% joint responsibility for flight safety,” the statement read.

“The airline allowing pilots to create their Operational Flight Plan breaches NCAR Part 8 regulations on Dispatch Release responsibility,” it further stated.

But the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) warned FLIDAN against making allegations that would impede the investigations of the NCAA into the matter.

However, responding to FLIDAN’s statement, the national president of NATCA, Yomi Agoro, said, “They are ignorant of this fact: Are they aware that a flight plan is subject to amendment? The investigation is on course. Let us not preempt the exercise. They have exposed their conduct and at the appropriate time, NATCA will speak.”

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