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U.S. Says Nigerian Pilots Poorly Trained And Equipped

Manuals Have Blank Pages, Pilots' Medical Histories Covered Up

The Nigerian government was lax in its enforcement of safety regulations during a period which included three fatal airline accidents, according to a report in the Associated Press.

Documents obtained from the FAA by the news service through a Freedom of Information Act request indicate that the captain of one of the airliners which went down ... a Bellview Airlines flight ... had taken a 14-year hiatus from flying and had worked at a dairy. He also had reportedly been shot in the head during a robbery attempt during his break from flying, but there was no information about medical treatment from the Nigerian government. An investigation summary indicated that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders were probably among the items stolen from the crash site. They were not recovered.

Another accident involved a Sosoliso Airlines flight described as "full of schoolchildren" which went down in 2005. That pilot was reportedly "racing a thunderstorm" when the plane attempted an instrument approach at Port Harcort. The pilot misjudged the landing and landed on the grass beside the runway. The airplane broke apart and caught fire.

In a third accident in 2006, in which an Aviation Development Co. flight went down about a minute after takeoff, investigators found that there were blank pages in a government-approved safety manual where the pilots would have found adverse weather information. That flight reportedly stalled after takeoff due to incorrect actions taken by the pilot in that situation. The FAA report obtained by the AP said that information could have been critical to the pilots making a decision to continue with the departure.

The Nigerian government says it did go through period in which there it had a "woeful accident record," but Harold Demuren, director general of Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority, says the situation is much improved now. None of the three airlines involved in the accidents cited are still in operation, and the FAA recently certified that Nigerian airlines are safe enough to fly directly to destinations in the U.S.

FMI: www.faa.gov, NCAA Info

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