From Suleiman Idris Lagos
A major crisis of confidence and mistrust appears to be brewing between the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and Nigeria Carrier, Air Peace over a report by the latter of an alleged Runway 18R burglary attempt on the Cargo Hold of Air Peace aircraft last Thursday.
While the NCAA yesterday dismissed the report by the airline as unfounded, the airline hit back and described the regulatory body’s investigation as a shoddy job aimed at covering-up it laxity.
A statement by the General Manager Public Relations of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye said the conclusion was arrived at after the Regulatory Authority reviewed all the reports from the relevant agencies concerning the incident and it was unproven.
However, the airline management in a counter statement lampooned NCAA saying it will not engage in any controversy with agencies that ought to have been jolted into action from their slumber by patriotic information it gave on the incident.
Adurogboye explained that “Last week, there were reports that the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) of Air Peace Flight no. APK 7138 with Aircraft no. 5N-BUJ had alerted the Lagos Control Tower that the Aircraft’s AFT Cargo Compartment has been opened.
According to the Pilot in his report to the Tower, he noticed that the Cargo Compartment light came up for 15 seconds and went off. This means someone has opened the compartment’s door.
The Air Traffic Controller on duty confirmed receiving the report at about 1933hrs (1833GMT).
In line with Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs), Aviation Security personnel were at the Holding Point of Runway 18R monitoring the departure/take off of both Air Peace and Arik Air aircraft.
The PIC alarm triggered an immediate response. The Escort team overtook the Arik aircraft for a more proximate field look and access to the Air Peace Aircraft.
The Arik Air aircraft also had its full complement of lights on towards the Air Peace aircraft having being aware of his counterpart’s conversation with the Tower. With benefit of this full view, neither movement nor any sign of person(s) was sighted around the aircraft.
Thereafter the Air Peace PIC requested to taxi back to the Apron at D45 to check if anything had been stolen. In addition, he wanted to clear his doubts that a bomb may have been thrown into the aircraft.
At D45, the Airport Chief Security called the NPF-EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) team who reported with their equipment at about 2026hrs.
Passengers were disembarked at 2028hrs. The EOD team joined by FAAN’s Aviation Security and Air Peace Security conducted a search on the Cargo compartment and the passenger cabin of the aircraft”.
NCAA spokesman explained further in the statement that: “The search was completed at about 2055hrs and the aircraft was declared safe by the EOD Team leader.
The Air Peace PIC therefore briefed the passengers of the EOD’s all clear decision and that the service shall be operated. All passengers re-boarded and the aircraft was escorted to the holding area for take – off by the Escort teams from FAAN AVSEC and the Military Airside Patrol.
The flight departed and landed safely at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Against this background, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) came to the conclusion that the Runway 18R burglary report is unproven, largely unsubstantiated and therefore should be discountenanced.
He concluded by informing all stakeholders that all aviation agencies are well motivated and prepared to carry out their responsibilities at all times.
Reacting to NCAA’s statement, the management of Air Peace noted that the airline remains unwilling to be drawn into unnecessary controversy with agencies that ought to have been jolted into action from their slumber by patriotic information it gave on the incident.
Air Peace in a statement signed by its Corporate Communications Manager, Chris Iwarah said the airline is compelled to say the purported report by NCAA is both a lazy and shoddy job at cover-up.
Iwarah in his statement stated that: “The conclusion by NCAA suggesting that our information on the incident was a false alarm absolutely lacks a basis. From the report, it is clear that the only reason for NCAA’s dismissal of the very serious security breach was the claim that when an aircraft of another airline beamed its lights after our pilot alerted the control tower to the incident, the suspected thieves were not seen.”