The military’s manner of conduct may not agree with Adrienne Rich’s saying, but the military stock-in-trade of delegating personal convictions and thoughts to the dictates of superior officers led to the recent Air Force plane crash.
Seven military personnel lost their lives during the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) plane crash, last week, Sunday morning. The Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft crashed while returning to the Abuja Airport after reporting engine failure en route Minna, in an effort to rescue 42 people who had been kidnapped.
It is so unfortunate that hours after the crash, the said kidnapped people were released by their abductors. Could this be an exchange for life?
It is unfortunate that hours after the crash, the said kidnapped people were released by their abductors. Could this be an exchange for life? How tragic would the situation have been if the aircraft had airlifted the kidnapped persons before crashing?
While these questions boggle the minds of several Nigerians, it is also strange that the pilot had complained of engine failure after taking off to the control tower.
A source at the control tower, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said that the pilot was advised to return to the Abuja Airport immediately, but this seemed to be too late, and it caused the crash when landing the plane immediately would have prevented the catastrophe.
Taking a cue from the apt saying by Adrienne Rich, on his view that learning to respect and use your own brain and instinct, rather than letting others do your thinking for you is the first act of being responsible, it becomes clear on who to hold responsible here.
Overtime, in the Nigerian military space, there seems to be a phrase of ‘obey the last order’ even when this order sounds foolish and unwise or even leading to sacrificing one’s life. The scenario that played out during the crash explains why not being responsible for one’s action could cause one’s life and those we love.
Witnesses at the scene of the incident said they saw the pilot struggling to turn around and get back to the airport before the plane crashed.
Another eyewitness said that the aircraft struggled for balance and began descending dangerously until it hit a mango tree close to a stream behind Bassa village, close to the airport.
However, questions have arisen from this: Why should a faulty aircraft be used for an operation? When the pilot realized the aircraft was not good enough to fly, why did he risk his life and that of others?
In Nigeria, there is an ambiance of compromise, corruption and ultimate interests which birth most of our decisions. As a consequence, lives were lost.
Attempt by the pilot of the aircraft to get back to the runway was an unwise decision that cost him his life and that of others. An emergency landing could have saved their lives rather than attempting to return to the runway.
A sign of wisdom is when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions could cause rewards and consequences. You are responsible for your life, and your ultimate success depends on the choices you make. Heroes had fallen stirring tears and causing pain to their loved ones.
The Beechcraft King Aircraft is a line of American utility aircraft produced by Beechcraft. King Air was the first aircraft in its class and has been in continuous production since 1964.
In August 2014, three new Beechcraft King Air 350i aircraft were delivered to the NAF and were being operated by the NAF’s 209 Executive Airlift Group (EAG), Minna, Niger State capital.
With Military air, disasters have been relatively frequent in Nigeria over the past two decades. However, Nigeria has a Category 1 rating under the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment programme, meaning the country complies with globally accepted safety standards.
Recall that September 7, 1992, 158 people were killed when a military transport plane went down at Ejigbo, Lagos; on September 18, 2006, a Dornier 228 military plane crashed at Vandekiya, Benue State, killing 14 military officers, including 10 Generals.
A crash on September 12, 1997 involved Dornier 228-212 built in 1994 and operated by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF). It crashed with 10 persons on board.
On September 17, 2006, 12 Nigerian military personnel, mostly high-ranking officers, were killed in a plane crash in Benue state. Six survived.
And on September 28, 2018, two NAF fighter jets crashed in Jikoko village, Abuja, near a quarry site owned by Limfond.
Meanwhile, to ascertain the cause of the crash the Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, which is the investigating commission in charge of all aviation-related accidents and incidents in Nigeria, said it does not investigate military accidents except when invited.
In his reaction, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), a former Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, who is also the Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative and Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Securities, explained that the military are not bound by the civil aviation regulations.
“I hear lots of people saying the crash was caused by engine failure, let them come out with their reports even the AIB can’t investigate it except the aircraft is fully registered they can’t investigate it. The previous aircraft that crashed did AIB go near it, they didn’t because the military are not bound by Civil Aviation,” he argued.
He raised concerns over negligence by pilots for not taking responsibility for their actions, citing the example of the Dana aircraft that crashed as the pilot flew for over 30 minutes instead of taking necessary precautions.
According to him, “If the pilot had complained about engine failure to the control tower that will be used for investigation. On the Dana aircraft that crashed the pilot also complained, the pilot complained 17 minutes after leaving Abuja of one engine failure and he still continued for almost 50 minutes until the second engine went off and the aircraft crashed”.
The aviation expert also pointed out that if any civilian had died in the crash on Sunday, perhaps the abducted persons, there is no insurance for such an individual, noting that there was also no insurance in place for the fallen soldiers.
“In our days, before they carry you on military aircraft you must have signed papers in case anything happened to you the Air force would not pay, they made it known to everybody that there would be no insurance in the said paper you wrote your name and signed.
“The point I am making is that they are not covered, looking at the regulations of aviation there is no provision for military aircraft, it only talks about civil aircraft, the military also have their regulations. Now, was a memorandum of understanding signed by them and are they covered by their insurance because these are serious issues,” he noted.
Similarly, the President of League of Maritime Editors and Publishers (LOMEP), Mr. Kingsley Anaroke, faulted the pilot’s decision to get back to the Abuja run way instead of an emergency landing to save his life and colleagues.
In his words, “There is the need to inculcate in pilots the habit and culture of taking responsibility for action in the face of emergencies. If the conversation between the control tower and the pilot of the ill –fated military aircraft is anything to go by, it means the pilot was trying to obey the call to return to the runway when he knew the engine could not make it. The wise decision could have been to land anywhere he found a space, if it is professionally allowed rather than obedience to the aviation norm, knowing that the risk at hand warranted non-compliance to save lives”.
“Instead of obeying the “order” from the control tower, why couldn’t he just disobey and save souls, so the pilot killed himself and his colleagues. It is important that we train pilots on leadership. They teach them military skills without taking them on decision making,” he noted.