Stride Radio


The Nigerian Air Force on Sunday assured Nigerians that investigations into last Friday’s plane crash and other recent ones would be transparent.

The NAF spokesman, Edward Gabkwet, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the force would not rush to take any decision, but would wait for the outcome of the investigation involving it and the Accident Investigation Bureau before deciding on the fatal plane crashes.

Recall that 11 military officers, including the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, died on Friday when a Beechcraft KingAir B350i billed to land at the Nigerian Air Force Base, Mando, Kaduna crashed at the Kaduna International Airport.

The death of the officers increased the number of military personnel, who died in crashes involving NAF aircraft, to 33 in six years. Also, during the period, the Nigerian military lost 11 aircraft to crashes.

On February 21, a Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft crashed while returning to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport after reporting engine failure en route Minna. Seven crew members on board the jet died.

In the interview with The PUNCH, Gabkwet was asked if NAF would ground Beechcraft KingAir B350i since there had been two crashes involving it in recent times.

He said such an action would be hasty, adding that investigations into the fatal crashes were still going on.

Gabkwet, however, assured Nigerians that NAF would decide on fatal crashes after thorough the investigation it was jointly carrying out with the Accident Investigation Bureau.

He stated, “We want to be as transparent as possible. Nigerians will be fully informed about the outcome of the investigation. We are going to have a joint press conference with the AIB and make sure everybody gets the outcome of this investigation.

“In the meantime, we are not rushing into taking certain decision that would hamper our own operations. Mind you, we still have operations ongoing. We must be careful about the kind of action we take. We should not take our eyes off the ball, we must remain focused in whatever we are doing, not take rash decisions just to please few critics on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. No, we won’t do that.”

Gabkwet explained that the two Beechcraft aircraft that crashed were different series, noting that the one which crashed in Abuja in March was configured for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance while the Beechcraft involved in Friday’s crash in Kaduna was a passenger aircraft.

He said, “You have to understand; a lot of things go into the grounding of an entire fleet of aircraft. One thing that can make us ground them is based on the recommendation of the board (of inquiry). We have been using that (Beechcraft) aircraft for almost 10 years and we have had just two crashes of that aircraft, then we ground it; then, we are not been fair to ourselves. It has been the most reliable transport aircraft we had until this accident.

‘’So, going to ground it is too swift and the Accident Investigation Bureau and the Nigerian Air Force are working hand-in-hand to make sure they come out with something all Nigerians will see and that’s why we are involving the AIB in this investigation.”

Investigations reveal that the NAF has a number of Chinese Chengdu F-7s, JF-17 Thunder Multirole Fighter jets, 13 Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jets, helicopter gunships, armed attack drones and military transport aircraft.

Two pilots, plane still missing

Besides the aircraft that crashed on Friday and in February, on March 31, a NAF Alpha jet with two crew members carrying out a mission against Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State disappeared from the radar at 6pm and has not been found.

The cause of the crash and the whereabouts of the pilots remain unknown.

The NAF has declared the pilots – John Abolarinwa and Ebiakpo Chapele – missing in action.

The Boko Haram sect had posted the footage of a burning wreckage of a plane, saying its fighters shot down the aircraft but this was denied by the air force.

On Sunday, Gabkwet, an air commodore, told one of our correspondents that there was no update on the two missing pilots missing since March 31.

He noted that the plane and the pilots had not been found. “The pilots have been declared missing in action until we are able to ascertain what happened to that plane and the two officers,’’ he added.

When asked why reports of military crashes were not disclosed to the public, the NAF spokesman explained that the probe into the latest accident would be revealed to Nigerians.

He said, “It is unfortunate that three air crashes have happened under the current Chief of Air Staff but we will present the outcome of this crash to Nigerians. That is why we are involving the AIB in the investigation to ensure transparency.’’

However, the Air Investigation Bureau, Nigeria, which is probing the Friday incident, said it had recovered the Flight Data Recorder and the Cockpit Voice Recorder from the Beechcraft 350 aircraft.

Among the air crashes recorded between 2015 and 2021 was one involving a training helicopter, which crashed in the NAF Base in Enugu on November 14, 2019, after returning from a routine training exercise. Fortunately, there were no fatalities or injuries to any crewmember or persons on the ground.

Similarly, on August 17, 2019, a NAF aircraft RV-6A Air Beetle crashed near Kaduna, killing the pilot, an experienced instructor.

The plane reportedly lost height and crashed but the pilot died before rescuers got to the scene.

A NAF helicopter also crashed in the process of landing while returning from an anti-banditry combat mission in the North-West Theatre under Operation Hadaran Daji in Katsina State, on June 12, 2019.


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