Why DANA bush landing should worry us all

A DANA airline overshot the Port Harcourt runway before ending up in a bush. We should all be worried about this incident.

The mishap raises fresh questions about the airworthiness of aircrafts navigating the Nigerian airspace and the competence of our nation’s aviation personnel.

An airline is said to have overshot the runway when it unintentionally skids past a specified point. This may be due to excess speed during landing or some other external factor playing out on the tarmac.

In the case of DANA this week, authorities say rainfall which led to a slippery runway and impaired visibility, were to blame.

Henrietta Yakubu who serves as General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, said it was all down to the rains.

“A Dana aircraft numbered 9J0363, flying from Abuja to the Port Harcourt airport, has overshot the Port Harcourt runway”, Yakubu announced afterward.

“The incident was suspected to have been caused by heavy rainfall, which was accompanied by strong wind and storm in Port Harcourt.

“No casualty was recorded, as all passengers on board were safely evacuated.”

Underlying problems

We are thankful that everyone escaped from the airline unscathed, but Tuesday’s accident points to deeper problems in our aviation sector.

Like several others across Nigeria, the Port Harcourt runway is poorly lit. The airport itself resembles a motor park in suburban Lagos. It has been under construction since forever.

And how come when it rains, water doesn’t drain fast enough from the runway? Does this have anything to do with poor drainage system? If there were problems on the ground from poor weather, why was the plane cleared to take off from Abuja in the first instance?

The other day, cows were allowed to roam freely on the runway of the Ondo airport; preventing an Airpeace airline from landing. Where else does that even happen?

On February  7, 2018, passengers onboard a local Dana airline relayed how the door of the aircraft made uncomfortable noise throughout the flight, before giving way upon landing.

Dana denied that its door had fallen apart, but passengers onboard demurred. The airline insisted someone must have tampered with the door when the aircraft touched down.

And just before midnight of Tuesday, February 13, 2018, Delta Flight 55 which was bound for Atlanta US, taxied on the runway of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos in a huff as everyone on board held their breaths. One of the airline’s engines had developed a fault midair.

Passengers on the airline had to be evacuated through emergency slides. However, five passengers sustained injuries from the incident.

We probably have flying coffins masquerading as aircrafts in Nigeria.

Darker days

Planes have fallen off the sky in Nigeria in recent times. Dana (June 3, 2012) and Sosoliso (December 10, 2005) readily come to mind. One aviation minister even said airline crashes in Nigeria are an “act of God”.

Arik once flew to the United States without a functioning air-conditioning system. Passengers took off their shirts to survive the suffocating temperatures.

Arik and other airlines have also carried on with poor time-keeping and a litany of cancelled flights.

Recent airline mishaps across Nigeria should be a wakeup call for aviation authorities and the federal government. Our airports are in such bad shape, really. At the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, buckets are placed across the lounge to collect rainwater due to leaking roofs.

Touts and louts roam the airports, looking for whom to fleece or extort.

For a country looking to attract foreign investors and bolster an ailing economy, our aviation sector should be up there among the very best. Unfortunately it isn’t. We just can't get the simplest things right around here.

As for Dana, it’s had one too many mishaps and snafus lately. Hopefully, government does something quickly about the airline and its license to fly.

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