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Most important aspect of air accident investigations is the recommendations—AIB boss

The Commissioner and chief executive officer of Nigeria’s Accident and Investigation Bureau (AIB), Mr. Akin Olateru has revealed that the most critical aspect of investigating every reported air accident is the recommendations that will be part of the report.

Olateru is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, United Kingdom,after attending City University, London, where he studied Air Transport Management and Aircraft Maintenance Engineering.

He has spent over 27 years working to maintain safe flight operations in several European and African airlines and airport establishments.

According to him, the recommendations will serve as a big lesson for both the airline and others to learn from and avoid further occurrence.

He said “At the end of every investigation, the agency responsible for the investigation (like AIB), while stating the cause of the accident, is also obliged to come out with recommendations to forestall future occurrences of similar accidents or serious incidences. This is what we call safety recommendations. The safety recommendations are as critical as the investigation itself as they are the lever used to effect safety changes and improvements in the aviation industry”.

On why it is important to always carry out a comprehensive investigation on every air mishap, AIB boss averred that “Accident investigation is a critical component of the safety processes put in place in the aviation industry”.

“In fact, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which is the global regulator for the aviation industry, describes accident investigation as “a process conducted for the purpose of accident prevention, which includes the gathering and analysis of information, the drawing of conclusions, including the determination of causes and, when appropriate, the making of safety recommendations.

He argued that for accident investigation to be relevant and effective, it must be thorough, impartial and timely. Timeliness is of essence.

Explaining more, Olateru noted that “There is no institution that is perfect anywhere in the world. As long as you have human beings working, controlling, manipulating and handling machines, systems and processes, there are bound to be errors”.

“We need to understand and appreciate this fact. What we try to do in AIB is to mitigate it. That is why we don’t set out to carry out accident investigations to punish anyone. No, our aim is to make safety recommendations that can mitigate such occurrences in the future. You cannot say that you can completely eliminate hazards 100 per cent; it is not possible. But you can reduce the effect of that hazard; you cannot eliminate errors 100 per cent in a system run by human beings. So you take steps to enhance safety in any workplace. It is for these reasons that in the aviation industry the investigation of an accident or a serious incident involving an aircraft is taken seriously.

He revealed that when he came in as Nigeria’s AIB Commissioner in January 2017, “we met 27 accidents and serious incidents whose investigations needed to be conducted and safety recommendations issued to relevant agencies or organisations and, of course, the public”.

“We have released 10 already, meaning we have 17 left. As I speak today, we have six safety recommendations to be released anytime soon. If we release these six that I just promised, then we are going to have 11 left. But we have three accidents that recently occurred under my watch involving Dana Air and Delta Air, which we are still investigating, which I have not added to the 27 that I inherited.

“Some of the investigations I met on ground lasted for several years. In fact, we are still investigating accidents that occurred as far back as 2008, which, to me, is totally unacceptable. But we will do all we can to conclude those investigations and push the results out so that the errors that led to these accidents can be corrected,” Olateru averred.