The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has revived its grounded $5.8 million flight safety laboratory equipment at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.
The agency’s commissioner, Mr. Akin Olateru, who disclosed this in Abuja at the end of a five-day training facilitated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Singaporean government, also said the agency’s staff had been trained on handling of the equipment.
Olateru said the optimum performance of the laboratory is central to the bureau’s contribution to safety in Nigeria and the sub-region.
He also said the management was not unaware of ICAO’s and the West African sub-region’s expectations from AIB.
Nevertheless, he said the agency would not only meet the demand but also Nigeria’s expectation for early and prompt release of air accident reports.
“One of my cardinal programmes since I resumed as the chief executive is to ensure that all the outstanding reports are released at the earliest possible time. This is one critical way of affecting aviation safety positively.
“To this end we are engaging all the necessary quarters to ensure that our investigators who have not been trained since they were employed about four years ago are well trained as investigators,” he said.
Constructed and equipped in 2012, Olateru recalled that AIB signed a contract with a Canadian firm, CEA/Flightscape in 2011 to install the state-of-the-art equipment in its new laboratory.
He said the laboratory was designed to download information from flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) which are the necessary requirements for a thorough and accurate accident investigation.
He further said the facility was used to download the flight recorders of Associated Airlines’ aircraft which crashed in October 2013.
However, he said the facility was not put to proper use since then and blamed the development on lack of in-house human capacity to manage the laboratory as well as some challenges from the manufacturers.
“The summary of the matter is that the laboratory was not working when I took over as the commissioner. I made it a priority to resuscitate the laboratory considering its importance to the discharge of AIB’s responsibilities.
“I galvanised all the necessary quarters to achieve this mission. ICAO and the Singaporean government agreed to help.
“First I charged our ICT compound to get the laboratory running, which they successfully did. So, I can confidently tell you that the laboratory is working. However, we need the in-house capacity to manage it and maximise the benefits of the facility. This is where ICAO has come in,” he said.
Responding, the ICAO representative, Mr. Caj Frostel who is also the commissioner for Banjul Accord Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA) commended AIB for its effort to ensure the facility was functional considering the its importance to safety in the West African sub-region.
Also, Mr. Michael Toft, an expert on flight safety laboratory and head of Air Accident Investigation Department of Singapore Transport Safety Board said he was impressed with the laboratory, which he said was on the same pedestal as Singapore’s ‘if not better’.