Dana Plane Crash:Investigators suspect contaminated fuel

2012-06-15
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Oyetunji Abioye

Investigators from Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau and the United States National Transportation Safety Board are focusing their investigations on the samples of aviation fuel collected from the Boeing MD-83 planes belonging to Dana Air.

Our correspondent gathered that the accident investigators on Tuesday commenced multiple tests on samples of aviation fuel, also known as Jet A1 fuel, collected from Dana planes parked at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Terminal Two, Lagos.

The development, it was gathered, was based on the belief that the dual engine failure experienced by the ill-fated Dana plane, which crashed into residential buildings in Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos and killed over 145 people, might have been caused by contaminated fuel. According to experts, a fuel is said to be contaminated when it contains some amount of water or sediments.

The investigators were said to be focusing on the samples of the fuel in the planes because majority of past cases of dual engine failure in the global aviation industry had been discovered to have been caused by fuel supply issues.

Sources said the investigators were not yet satisfied with the results they were getting so far from the samples of fuel collected.

A source in Dana, who confided in our correspondent, disclosed that the investigators had been collecting samples of fuel from the remaining planes in the carrier’s fleet.

“Yes, a team of investigators has been coming to collect samples of fuel from our remaining airplanes. Members of the team have been coming since Tuesday. Up till this morning, they still came. In fact, we have run out of fuel sampling bottles, which we used to conduct tests on fuel every morning when we were still in operation,” the source said.

Speaking on the development, the spokesman of AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketumbi, confirmed that a team of investigators had gone to collect samples of fuel from the airline.

He, however, said the exercise was one of the routine steps in every accident investigation.

Oketumbi said the team was not focusing on one matter, adding that several issues were being examined.

According to him, the investigators will only conclude the process after several other issues have been thoroughly cross-checked.

He said, “It is part of the normal routine process in accident investigation. We collect samples of fuel. We go to the Control Tower to collect the tapes there; we go to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to collect records of the aircraft, the crew and the planes’ maintenance schedules.

“We also go to the airlines to collect various documents, as well as conduct tests on certain things. So, they are all part of the routine things in accident investigation.”

It has been speculated that the fuel samples may be flown to the United States for further testing if the results from the local analysis continue to be unsatisfactory.

Pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers, who spoke to our correspondent on Tuesday, had said most cases of dual engine failures in the past were discovered to have been caused by fuel related problems

They, however, stressed that only the black boxes of the Dana plane could give the most authentic and detailed causes of the tragic crash.

Pilots and aeronautic engineers said the primary suspect in any case of dual engine failure was the plane’s fuel system.

The Chief Executive Officer, AirFirst Nigeria Limited, Mr. Gbolahan Abatan, said, “Mechanically speaking, the two engines are not linked together except through fuel. There could be the case of cross-feeding in aircraft engines. This is a situation where you pass fuel from one engine to the other when one runs out of fuel.

“This is why when two engines are lost; the first suspect is usually things that have to do with the fuel system. However, we have to wait until investigators tell us what went wrong with the Dana plane. Anything we say now will be speculative. “

A pilot working with one of the domestic airlines, who chose to speak under the condition of anonymity said, “For the aircraft to have lost two engines, the first suspect must be fuel. If the report comes out and it is discovered that it was a flame out, then you know that the fuel was contaminated. Fuel contamination is when you have water or sediments in the fuel.

“From the training we have, the common thing that can make an engine flame out is contaminants in the fuel, especially when you lose two engines at the same time or less than an hour after intervals as in the case of the Dana plane. But if the engine has a technical fault, then it can work, only that it won’t give you the adequate power you need.”



 

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