The Accident Investigation Bureau on Tuesday explained why an AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and 11 other passengers onboard crashed in the Kabba area of Kogi State.
The copter operated by Caverton Helicopters Limited with registration number 5N-CML crashed on February 2, 2019 upon landing on a football field in Kabba with both passengers and crew escaping death by a whisker.
AIB, the investigating commission in charge of all aviation-related accidents and incidents in Nigeria, on Tuesday released its findings in a report titled, “Final Report on the accident involving AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter operated by Caverton Helicopters Limited with nationality and registration marks 5N-CML, which occurred at Kabba, Kogi State on 2nd February, 2019.”
According to the report, AIB Commissioner, Akin Olateru, said the crew of the flight, which took off from the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport for Kogi, sighted the intended landing area – a football field – and “approached with the speed of 20 kt to about a 100 ft, and entered a hover to land”.
But “at about 50 ft above ground level, a brownout set in. The flight crew lost visual contact with the ground and external surroundings” making the helicopter experienced a hard landing and subsequently rolling onto its right side.
The AIB added that other contributory factors aside the visual disorientation includes “inappropriate landing technique used, non-adherence to company procedures for known or anticipated brownout conditions during landing, lack of risk assessment, limited landing site preparation and planning prior to commencement of the flight.”
It, therefore, advised the Office of the National Security Adviser to “consider whether the Presidential Air Fleet Unit should be involved in the coordination and preparation of all high profile Executive VIP mission (flights) in order to ensure that all Executive VIP flights are conducted in accordance with the PAF Unit’s Standards and in line with its approved operating procedures.”
The Commission also advised the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to conduct a Safety Management System audit of Caverton Helicopters.
The Vice-President, in February 2020, marked one year of surviving the crash with a thanksgiving service at the Aso Villa Chapel in Abuja.
“I think what happened on that occasion was so amazing; so miraculous; 12 of us in a helicopter; the helicopter crashed and not one scratch on anyone of us.
“That’s just incredible; so, we can only continue to thank God and to praise the Lord Jesus Christ for an awesome deliverance of so many of us; so, we just keep thanking God.
“Can you imagine a situation where you survived a helicopter crash? I think it demonstrates that God is merciful; God is awesome; He is able to do all things,” Osinbajo said.