THE Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has said it is collaborating with the United Kingdom to probe the cause of the accident involving a Bristow helicopter, which ditched into the Atlantic Ocean 95 nautical miles to Lagos on February 3, this year.
The Commissioner of AIB, Dr. Felix Abali, who stated this at a press conference in Lagos, yesterday, also said that vital components, especially the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) needed for proper investigation into the incident had been retrieved and are ready for onward transfer to the UK where they would be decoded.
Dr. Abali, who said the briefing was called to update the public on what AIB is doing to unravel the cause of the accident, revealed that the crew first detected that the chopper was malfunctioning at 78 nautical miles from Lagos as it began self descending from 3,000 to 15,000 feet, forcing the crew to begin immediate safety measures.
His words, “The aircraft with nine passengers and two crew members had departed ERHA Oil Platform en route Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. The crew declared May Day twice. The first was declared by the crew at 78 nautical miles from Lagos complaining of instrument problems. The aircraft descended from 3,000 feet to 1,500 feet. At this time the Flying Officer (FO) was the Pilot Flying (PF).
“The captain took over control expecting to stabilise the helicopter but the aircraft was not responding to control inputs. She declared the second May Day to the radio operator at the offshore platform, which was relayed to the ATC by two separate aircraft. One aircraft was following the communication and relayed the ditching, which occurred at 10:20 a.m at 29 nautical miles away from the platform.”
The AIB commissioner further said that in order to determine whether any of the crew was under the influence of drug or any related substance, a toxicological test was conducted on them, which proved negative, adding that one of the passengers was also interviewed to extract information that could assist in investigating the accident.
Abali further disclosed that AIB had established contacts with the U.S-based manufacturer of Sikorsky 76C++ with registration number 5N-BQJ, who he said had been invited to assist in the investigation.
He explained that the visit of representatives of the manufacturer is been delayed due to problems they are having with their visa application. He, however, assured that this would be sorted out soon.
The AIB chief gave assurance that thorough investigation which the public would be proud of would be done, recalling that when the agency submitted its preliminary report on the Bristow helicopter that crashed last August into the Lagos Lagoon, part of its recommendation informed the global alert which the manufacturer sent out to users of the Sikorsky model all over the world which helped to avert an air crash with that model in Brazil last year.
He added that based on the same report, the manufacturer had commenced a periodic bulletin on Sikorsky, which it circulates worldwide.