Nigerian senate investigates Kano plane crash

Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- Nigeria's federal upper legislative chambers Saturday began a public session in the northern city of Kano, as part of its investigations into the 4 May EAS airlines plane crash which claimed 148 lives.
Appearing before the Senate Committee on Aviation, Idris Wada, Managing Director of EAS airlines, refuted speculations that the plane was not in good condition at the time of the crash.
But he admitted that the plane, a BAC 1-11 525 series manufactured in 1980, was fitted with the engine of a grounded BAC 1-11 plane also owned by the airlines four days before the crash.
Local press reports quoted Wada as saying the right side engine of the ill-fated plane was replaced with that of a grounded aircraft due for a major overhaul.
This raised eyebrows among members of the committee.
However, the airline boss said the practice was not uncommon in the aviation industry.
"It is expedient to change parts from one aircraft to another because it is impossible to have the finance to stock every part for something that may go wrong," Wada said.
Since the plane crashed a few minutes after take-off from the Aminu Kano International Airport, there have been speculations that the aircraft was not in proper condition before the flight, which originated from the central Jos town with Lagos as the final destination.
In the wake of the crash, allegations of sharp practices by airline operators in Nigeria, where about a dozen airlines have sprung up since the deregulation of the aviation sector in the mid-1980s, have forced the Ministry of Aviation to introduce tough measures to enhance safety.
The measures included the suspension of BAC 1-11 flights in the country, an outright ban on planes that are older than 22 years and the grounding of airlines with only one plane.
But Wada said his aircraft was in good condition and that the pilot who flew the plane that crashed, Peter Ineh, was an experienced pilot who had put in not less than 14,000 flying hours.
He admitted that he lost most of his pilots to other airlines who offered them better salaries of between 400,000 Naira (about 3,539 USD) and 500,000 Naira (about 4,424 USD) per month, against the 300,000 Naira (2,654 USD) paid by EAS.
"Our pilots require 4,000 hours before they become captains.
They go for a mandatory check every six months.
I believe the captain was in good health," he said.
Wada was apparently clarifying suggestions that he lost his pilots to other airlines because of alleged poor maintenance of his fleet and poor remuneration for the flight crew.
The airline boss also disclosed that the sum of 100,000 US dollars was found in the luggage of one of the victims of the crash.
The money has been lodged with the police until the family of the owner could be ascertained.
" The committee, which continues its sitting in Kano till Monday, will also hear testimony from officials of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the National Airspace Management Agency, before moving to other centres.
Aviation Minister Kema Chikwe has also instituted a panel to investigate the crash.

19 Maio 2002 15:48:00

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