The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), has revealed that the Bell 206B 111 helicopter operated by Quorum Aviation Limited which crashed in Lagos, had no fuel left in its tanks.
The revelation was part of the agency’s initial findings contained in its preliminary investigation.
The Bell 206B helicopter crashed on August 28, 2020 in Opebi area of Lagos, killing all passengers on board.
The report said that the helicopter with the registration number: 5N-BQW had 3:15 minutes endurance fuel, while the estimated flight time was 2:45hrs.
According to the report, rather than the 2:45hrs of estimated flight time to Lagos from Port Harcourt, the aircraft crashed at 2:59hrs, indicating 14 minutes behind estimated time.
Besides, it was not clear how the fuel, which ought to last for 3:15hrs could be empty at 2:59hrs of the flight.
The report released indicated that the aircraft had no fuel jettisoning capability.
The report further revealed that the helicopter was topped to full tank capacity on August 27, 2020, stressing that after re-fuelling, ten minutes of engine run and 20 minutes of test flight were carried out the same day at Port Harcourt.
The report said: “The helicopter has an endurance of 3:24hrs. The operational flight plan filed by the pilot indicated an endurance of 3:15hrs and an estimated flight time of 2:45hrs. The helicopter engine was started at 09:15hrs.
“The helicopter took off at 09:20hrs. The helicopter crashed at 12:14hrs. There was no fuel left in the fuel tanks after the crash. The mast and main rotor blades were found intact during the post-crash inspection.”
Besides, the preliminary report revealed that the pilot, 37, last medical examination was valid till August 6, 2020, 22 days before the crash.
It added that there was no evidence to show that an application for the exemption provided by the All Operators’ Letter (AOL) DG020/20 had been submitted to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) by the pilot as at the time of the crash.
The report added that the pilot’s last Proficiency Check was valid till August 24, 2020, which was four days before the crash.
Again, AIB said there was no evidence to show that an application for the exemption provided by the AOL DG018/20 had been submitted to the regulatory agency.
It however noted that the helicopter had a valid Certificate of Airworthiness.
Quorum Aviation Limited, operator of the crashed helicopter in Lagos seems not to be happy with some parts of the preliminary report on the crash released by the by the Bureau.
One of the areas of findings by the AIB regarding the pilot’s proficiency license which the AIB says there was no evidence of application to the NCAA for exemption, Quorum Aviation says it is not true.
Reacting to this, Managing Director and Accountable Manager, Quorum Aviation Limited, Abiola Lawal says seven days to the expiration of the pilot’s proficiency, the company wrote a letter to the Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority NCAA on the 18th August, 2020 requesting the extension and exemption.
Lawal states that, the letter was written based on the exemption document by the NCAA to all Nigerian operators Ref: NCAA/DOT/GEN012/20/002.
The letter read, “Given the challenges of the Covid-19 in organizing additional crew travel and training, we hereby wish to request for the exemption/extension of our pilots Captain Chika Prudence Ernest License ATPL(H) 6245 under the above exemption granted by the DG in the above reference circular.”
“His proficiency expires on August 24th 2020 and his comprehensive medical are valid until the 6th of August 2023.”
Captain Prudence is a well experienced Helicopter pilot and experienced PIC on tje Bell 206 and we kindly appreciate if this application can be promptly approved to continue operations.”
”We are hopeful subsequently that things would have settled down post COVID for early next year travel for future proficiency when exemption validity expires 31st December 2020 per the circular”.
The aircraft had crashed on August 28, 2020 with the three souls onboard perishing as a result of the impact of the crash.
The flight was operated on a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight plan. According to the flight plan, on board were one pilot, an engineer and a fitter mechanic.
At 11:45:34hrs, the aircraft established initial contact with Lagos tower and passed its traffic information as coming from Port Harcourt, maintaining 1000ft, estimating Lagos at 12:17hrs, with three persons on board and one-hour endurance, adding that Lagos tower acknowledged the call.
At 11:46:05hrs, Lagos tower requested the aircraft to report again its distance to the field (LAG VOR), while the pilot replied 20 miles to the field.
At 11:46:36hrs, tower requested 5N-BQW to verify that it was 20 miles to Lagos, its point of departure and the altitude it was maintaining.
At 11:46:46hrs, 5N-BQW replied that it was from Port Harcourt, maintaining 1000ft, estimating Lagos at 12:18hrs with three persons on board.
At 11:46:54hrs, Tower requested for 5N-BQW’s endurance again and at 11:46:5hrs, 5N-BQW replied one-hour endurance.