An official of Dana Airlines who does not want to be named yesterday told reporters in Lagos that the ill-fated flight 0992, MC Donnell Douglas (MD 83) was faulty shortly after it left Lagos and stopped over in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
The Dana official who spoke to Channels Television in Lagos, alleged that the Indian owners of the airline threw caution to the winds and insisted that the plane must fly in a bid to maximise profit, thereby sending the plane over to Abuja to pick passengers, when it should have been returned to Lagos for repair.
She also claimed that the flight has had persistent history of faults with its hydraulics in recent times and it was not supposed to have flown. According to the official, “the plane has been giving faults for a very long time. There was a case when it was on ground in Uyo for over six hours, it had a bolt. And then in Abuja it happened a few days ago. Some people went with the aircraft but they could not come back, because it had a fault there and it couldn’t leave Abuja.”
But Dana Air has denied allegations that the ill fated 22 years old aircraft was not fit to fly, saying that their aircraft, the McDonnell Douglas (MD83) with registration number 5N-RAM, was still serviceable and operational.
Speaking in Lagos yesterday, Director of Flight Operations, Captain Oscar Wilson with Director of Ground Operations, Amos Olajide and Communication Manager, Tony Usidamen insisted the aircraft was in good condition.
“No aircraft would go if not in perfect condition. We don’t take risks with people’s lives. I did the test flight myself, there was nothing wrong with the aircraft, and it was okay,” he said.
He said the airline would do its best to assist authorities in unravelling the cause of the crash and condoled with the families. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased, and we are doing everything we can to assist them in this extremely difficult time,” he said.
But the official who spoke to Channels Television yesterday said the plane that the plane was not supposed to leave Lagos at all. “Yesterday, it (Dana Air flight 0992) was not supposed to leave Lagos at all, but it left and then got to Calabar, gave fault and it was fixed and then they took it to Abuja, when they should have returned to Lagos but because they didn’t want to part with the little money they would make, they took it to Abuja, loaded full passengers and then it couldn’t get to Lagos, ”she said.
“It has been having faults over time, continuously, hydraulics or one thing or the other. That aircraft kept having problems and they were not ready to park it,” she alleged.
The official added that the management of the airline does not return aircraft with faults back to the station, as it should have, but “they make it complete its normal route to where ever it is supposed to go before they bring it back to Lagos,” she said.
Special Adviser, Technical to Minister of Aviation, Mr. Victor Oche Elias, earlier said that the pilot of the ill-fated plane had alerted the aviation authority of the airport, on the emergency situation 11 nautical miles to landing. He said the pilot’s May-Day cry was given priority, but the plane could not make it, as it crashed 4 nautical miles to landing.
Also, Aviation Safety Network said the N944AS crashed Dana aircraft was bought from Alaska Airline and maintained at Miami in August 2008 before it was delivered to Dana Air on February 19, 2012.
The aircraft was delivered to Alaska Airline on November, 1990 but it was bedevilled with technical challenges shortly after that.
According to the network, the aircraft in November 2002 was diverted due to smoke and technical smell in cabin, light ballast had overheated while on August 20, 2006, passengers were evacuated after landing at Long Beach when a chaffed wire bundle arced and produced smoke in the cabin area
Shortly after delivery to Dana, on April 19, 2012 the aircraft landed emergency following loss of engine power after bird strike on takeoff in Lagos.
Dana Air, has about 6 aircraft in its fleet comprising of MD 83 aircraft. It flies about 5 routs across Nigeria, Lagos- Abuja, Lagos- Port Harcourt, Lagos-Uyo and Lagos- Calabar.