West African Aviation: Technical Glitch Is To Blame – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
As of this writing (6/4/12), a five-member committee had reportedly been established to inquire into the June 2 crash-landing of a Nigerian cargo jet that resulted in the deaths of at least ten passengers on a bus rammed by the Boeing 727 when it skidded off the runway at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) – (See “El-Wak Plane Crash: We Tried Our Best To Stop, Says Pilot” Ghanaweb.com 6/4/12). The panel is largely composed of retired technocrats and is due to submit its findings to Mr. Collins Dauda, Ghana’s Minister for Tranportation.

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Needless to say, it would definitely have made quite a lot of sense, if at least one of the members of the panel had been an active managerial employee of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority. Significantly, though, a preliminary interview with one of the pilots of the Allied Air Cargo plane seems to suggest that the freaky accident may well have been caused by an equal combination of mechanical problems and the poor quality of the KIA runway, which was reported to have been heavily inundated with rainwater.

Thus, one aspect of the investigation may have to focus on the drainage system of all the runways at KIA and, indeed, the entire drainage system of both the airport and its vicinity. The question of poor visibility has also been raised. And if, indeed, the latter significantly factored into the cause of the accident, then former President Jerry John Rawlings may be partly correct in suggesting that, perhaps, the landing of the Nigerian cargo plane ought to have been aborted.

So far, all that we have learned from the unnamed co-pilot is that although the plane successfully landed on the KIA runway, “it simply would not stop. We tried everything possible to keep it on the runway, but it just kept going until it shot off the runway.”

In essence, it appears that the pilots had lost control of the plane, once it crash-landed. If so, this could be a combination of both a mechanical fault and human error. We also don’t know the age of the proverbial flying machine and a record of the last time that it was significantly serviced or underwent repair. Likewise, we do not have any record yet of how often Allied Air’s Boeing 727 jet had been serviced in the past, and also the extent of its flight worthiness. All the foregoing would have to be looked into, as is also the flight experience of the pilots.

We intend to tackle the equally critical question of whether, indeed, the Kotoka International Airport would have to be relocated. Maybe, it would need to be reclassified and/or demoted from the enviable status of an international airport to that of a domestic terminal. But, of course, this cannot happen until at least a couple of the state-of-the-art international airports have been constructed to take the place of KIA.

However, if those critics agitating for the relocation of the KIA predicate their argument solely on account of the occurrence of a few fatal accidents, such as the tragic crash-landing of the Allied jet, then, I am afraid, those critics need to put more teeth into their argument. For, even the best designed and operated airports around the globe are not without their fair share of accidents from time to time. Indeed, while it can be drastically reduced to a level of acceptable negligibility, whatever that means, the fact remains that human and mechanical errors are bound to be with us in perpetuity, as it were.

What remains, presently, is for high aviation standards to be set and rigidly enforced throughout the African continent. So far, my observation of the quality of automobiles that are allowed to be imported into the country, does not adequately convince me that Ghanaian leaders are ready to lay down and enforce the highest safety standards in either aviation protocol and/or the culture of road-transport system. And this is as sad as it is tragic.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net

The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of www.africanewsanalysis.com and www.africa-forum.net