… Nigeria Airforce sets up committee to ascertain causes of incessant crashes of its aircraft

… Committee comprising serving, retired officers to recommend measures to enhance safety

… Orders investigation of its operational, engineering units

… To submit its report not later than June 18, 2021

THE Nigerian Air Force (NAF), on Tuesday afternoon ordered the investigation of its operational and engineering units to ascertain the factors responsible for the incessant crashes of its aircraft. The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao constituted a Committee of serving and retired senior officers to conduct a safety audit of all Nigerian Air Force (NAF) operational and engineering units. Director of Public Relations and Information Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet in a statement said that the Committee is to, among other terms of reference, analyse safety reports from operational and engineering units, conduct safety evaluation of NAF units and recommend measures to enhance safety of operations in the units.

“The Committee is also to interact with unit operational and technical personnel for views, observations and contributions on safety measures,” he said. He said that the committee is chaired by Air Vice Marshal Abraham Adole, the Deputy Theatre Commander, Operation HADIN KAI. The statement concluded that the Committee is to submit its report not later than 18 June 2021. Earlier, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor also directed that an Accident Investigation Board be constituted to unravel the cause of the Military aircraft crash that claimed the life of the late Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru The Acting Director Defence Information, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu who disclosed this in Abuja said, “The unfortunate incident occurred after landing at the Kaduna International Airport due to inclement weather.”

Meanwhile, this medium earlier reported that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) had concluded plans to ground all platforms in its inventory except those on operations. An insider source said that a signal just came from the hierarchy of the service grounding all aircraft to pave way for a comprehensive investigation into the perennial crashes of its platforms. Nigerian Pilot gathered that the decision to ground the platforms may not be unconnected with the Friday crash in Kaduna which claimed the life of a serving Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru and other top military brass, including the pilot and other crew members. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) had come under intense criticism following the perennial air mishap involving its aircraft.

More than 19 military personnel including top Generals have been killed in less than four months following these incessant crashes. Some critics have attributed the crashes to the conditions of the aircraft, while others said that the pilots may not be properly trained hence the consistent mishap. Some had however queried the quality of the much publicized incountry-activation of serviceable platform, arguing that a couple of these aircraft that the service had reactivated in the country are old and should be decommissioned from the service inventory. But when contacted the Spokesperson of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet refuted the information, saying that it is not possible to ground platforms while operations are ongoing.

While noting that the Information is a lie, Gabkwet said that the service is waiting for the outcome of the investigation before taking the next line of action. Recall that the Nigeria Beechcraft King Air B350i (NAF 201), crashed in Abuja on February 21, 2021, killing all crew members on board. The then Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force (NAF), AVM Ibikunle Daramola while giving an update on the tragic incident said “the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), earlier today, 21 February 2021, confirmed that one of its aircraft, a Beechcraft KingAir B350i (NAF 201), crashed while returning to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja after reporting engine failure enroute Minna, where it was scheduled to conduct surveillance missions over Niger State and its environs in connection with the concerted efforts to secure the release of the students/staff abducted from the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State.”

As if that was not enough, on the 31st of March, 2021, less than one month after the first tragedy, another one struck, but this time around in the Theatre of war. Announcing the ugly incident, the Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet in a statement said the NAF Alpha Jet aircraft, was reported missing in Borno State on 31 March 2021 after losing radar contact. The cause of the crash as well as the whereabouts of the 2 pilots remains unknown. The pilots are Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele. Painfully, while the above crash was yet to be resolved by the military, the mother of all military crashes happened in Kaduna. Confirming the air crash that killed the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other military personnel, the Director Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima in a statement said, “The Nigerian Army regrets to announce the passing away of its Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru.”

“The sad event occurred following an air crash in Kaduna which also claimed the lives of 10 other officers including the crew. “The COAS was enroute Kaduna from Abuja on Friday, 21 May, 2021 when the unfortunate incident happened”, he stated. 18 out of the 20 victims of the NAF, perennial air mishap have since been buried, the latest being the burial of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 others on Saturday, May 22, 2021. The fate of the crew members for the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475) that crashed on the 31, March 2021, in the Northeast theatre of operation, is still hanging in the balance. The site and wreckage of the aircraft had defied military tact, search and rescue strategy, let alone finding the remains of the two crew members, who paid the supreme price in defence of their father land. The crashes involving Nigerian Air Force aircraft in recent months are becoming one too many

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