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Saturday, 9 June 2012

Dana crash: How pilot reported dual engine failure, ‘negative throttle response

By Our Reporter ⁠

Fresh facts emerged yesterday that the pilot of the ill-fated Dana Aircraft, Captain Peter Waxtan, actually reported dual engine failure in his last communication with the control tower at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. 

Also, the pilot allegedly declared negative response from throttle, implying a serious difficulty in landing. 

But the development has raised fresh posers in the aviation sector over the flight and the conduct of the pilot. 

In the last few days, the management of Dana Air had joined issues with the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, on whether the two engines of the aircraft were faulty or not. 

There were indications yesterday, however, that the two engines were lost about 10 nautical miles to the airport. 

According to the snippets of the last communication between the tower and the pilot obtained in confidence, the  latter spoke in a panicking tone. 

Apart from the Black Box which will provide technical details of how the crash occurred, contact with the control tower could be locally retrieved. 

Investigation revealed that aviation experts in the Ministry of Aviation, Abuja , who are in the know of the communication between the pilot and the control tower, wondered what the pilot meant by "dual engine failure." 

According to them, "the pilot contacted the control tower in Lagos at about 10 nautical miles while the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 5,000 feet to declare "May Day", interpreted in aviation to mean "emergency". 

The pilot was quoted as saying: "May Day, May Day due to dual engine failure and negative response from throttle", in a panic-laden voice. 

"The simple interpretation of this, according to the experts, is that the engines had packed up and the pilot was no longer in control of the aircraft." 

It was gathered that the experts also wondered why the pilot had earlier requested to be cleared to land on runway 18R, when the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 7,200 feet instead of runway 18L usually used by aircraft on local flights. 

The experts added: "Runway 18R is in the international wing and is 4.5km long compared to 18L which is over 3km long. 

"The request to be allowed to land on "18R with longer breaking distance meant that the pilot was anticipating some problems or was indeed having problems. 

"Could the aircraft have been on one engine with the pilot hoping to use it to land? If this was so, at what point did the aircraft lose the engine? Did the pilot try to "restart" or "relight" the engine to no avail? They said the questions are apt as it is rare for all the engines of an aircraft to fail at the same time. 

"It is not clear if any such problem was communicated to the control tower at that point. 

"All that, however, will be captured by the AIB, which is in possession of the black box containing the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder," they said. 

It was gathered that an analysis of the flight data recorder will reveal the state of the engine and the technical performance of the aircraft. 

One of the sources said: "From the cockpit voice recorder will emerge the pilot communication with air traffic controllers in the last 30 minutes of the flight. 

"Air traffic controllers also record their communications with pilots for aerial, approach and aerodrome. This is archived for 90 days and in the event of air mishap made available within 24  hours to the AIB." 

As at press time, more countries have joined ongoing investigation of the crash. 

The Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Joe Obi, who spoke with our correspondent in Abuja, said: "I know it is not only the US that is investigating the crash. There are other volunteer countries. But I won't be able to immediately give you their names. 

"Other countries are joining the investigation because we have some components of the aircraft that ought to be analysed too." 

Asked when the corpses of the deceased will be released, Obi said: "It has to do with medical examination. Only the Lagos State Government can talk on this. 

"We know that some faiths allow early burial of their deceased members, but the Lagos State Government will be of assistance in this respect." 

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