The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), on Friday, further justified its suspension of Azman Air Service operation, saying the airline was an accident waiting to happen if the regulatory authority failed to take the necessary step.
The NCAA also cleared the air on the many allegations levelled against it by the Azman Air management, warning that it would not succumb to blackmail.
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General Manager, Public Affairs of the NCAA, Mr Sam Adurogboye, in a statement on Friday, highlighted the many sins of Azman which warranted Wednesday’s suspension of its operation.
Daily Trust reports that the NCAA had slammed suspension on the airline on Tuesday.
The suspension has generated controversy with Azman Air accusing the Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, of grounding the airline as a way of settling personal scores.
But the NCAA reiterated that the suspension of the airline’s operation was necessary to avert a national tragedy.
Adurogboye stated that over a period of about six weeks, Azman Air Boeing 737 aircraft operating scheduled passenger flights were involved in three separate incidents, resulting in damage to the aircraft in each case.
He said during a routine ramp inspection on 10th February 2021, at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, NCAA inspectors found an Azman Air maintenance engineer carrying out replacement of the right-hand main landing gear wheel assembly (nos. 3 and 4) of their Boeing 737-500 aircraft with registration 5N-SYS, without referring to the manufacturer’s maintenance manual.
He said: “This is a violation of the Civil Aviation Regulations, for which both Azman Air and the engineer have been sanctioned but are yet to pay the fine.
“On 11th February 2021, Azman Air flight AZM 2318 operated with the same Boeing 737-500 aircraft with registration 5N-SYS, departed Kaduna for Lagos.
“During take-off, a component of the aircraft was observed to have fallen off the aircraft and Air Traffic Control (ATC) notified the Captain, who elected to continue the flight to Lagos.
“Upon arrival in Lagos, the Captain failed to make an entry in the aircraft technical logbook.
“Azman Air maintenance team on ground Lagos were notified of the detached part and carried out an inspection, which identified the missing part as the No3 Main Landing Gear (MLG) heatshield.
“However, the maintenance team neither made an entry in the technical logbook nor rectified the defect but released the aircraft for a scheduled passenger flight from Lagos to Abuja.
“NCAA inspectors in Abuja were notified and promptly grounded the aircraft, until the defect was rectified, before releasing the aircraft for the resumption of flight operations.”
“A Letter of Investigation was issued to Azman Air, and investigations are ongoing.”
The NCAA stated that exactly five days later, on 16th of February 2021, when the previous incident was still under investigation, Azman flight AZM 2325, with the same Boeing 737-500 aircraft with registration 5N-SYS, suffered burst tyres while landing in Lagos, with resultant severe damage to the aircraft engine and fuselage.
It said the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) is currently investigating this occurrence as a serious incident.
It added that on Monday 15th March 2021, Azman Air flight AZM 2318, operated with a Boeing 737-500 aircraft with registration 5N-YMS, departed Kaduna for Lagos and the Captain reported a loud bang after retracting the landing gear during take-off but decided to proceed to Lagos as all parameters were normal.
The statement added: “The aircraft landed in Lagos and taxied to its parking stand when ATC informed the Captain of the burst tyres as reported by the Airport Fire Service.
“NCAA Kaduna Regional Office Manager alerted the Director General (DG) of tyre debris on the runway in Kaduna when an inspection was carried out after the departure of the Azman flight.
“The DG instructed NCAA Lagos office to conduct a ramp inspection of the Azman aircraft. When the NCAA inspectors reached the aircraft, they discovered that two severely damaged tyres had been replaced and further inspections revealed damage to a hydraulic line with resultant hydraulic leak and damage to the hydraulic reservoir.
“The alarming trend of tyre failures, in combination with improper tyre maintenance procedures, is a clear and strong indication of an accident chain formation in its final stages.
“There was an urgent need to break the accident chain before a completely avoidable national tragedy occurs.
“No responsible Civil Aviation Authority will fold its arms and wait for the next incident to occur, perhaps a fatal accident, before taking action.
“Consequently, the Director-General called for an emergency meeting of the Flight Standards Group of the NCAA, to discuss and decide on the next line of action on the worrisome developments at Azman Air.
“After deliberations which lasted for several hours, and comprehensive evaluations of these incidents, the Director-General decided to suspend Parts A3 (Aircraft Authorization) and D43 (Aircraft Listing) of the Operations Specifications (OPS SPECS) issued to Azman Air, thus suspending the operation of the entire Boeing 737 aircraft on its fleet.
“A comprehensive audit of Azman Air will be conducted in the areas of operations, airworthiness, training, licensing, financial health and any other area determined to be necessary during the exercise.
“An Audit Team of inspectors has been constituted to determine the root causes of these incidents, and recommend action plans to forestall recurrence.
Daily Trust reports that the audit, which started on Wednesday, is still ongoing.