The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has announced the suspension of the operation of Bristow Helicopters Limited’s Sikorsky S-76C++ type helicopter until further notice.
The Director-General of NCAA, Captain Muhtar Usman, at a briefing in Lagos yesterday, explained that the suspension was necessary to enable the authorities carry out a full-scale audit on Bristow’s operations with particular emphasis on its Sikorsky S-76C++ type aircraft.
Bristow has recorded many accidents in Nigeria, of which several involved the same aircraft type.
The Sikorsky helicopter was involved in one of the company’s most tragic accidents on August 12 last year, which led to the death of six persons, including the pilot and the co-pilot.
Previous accidents of Bristow included one in August 2007; another one in November 2009; a collision in December 2009; another accident in April 2010; one in July 2011; yet another one in February 2013; last year’s accident; and the controlled ditching on Wednesday.
Usman said as a responsible regulatory authority, it was important to stem the rapidity of occurrence and ensure the airline operates safely.
“I must mention that this suspension of operations for the impending wholesale audit is not a vote of no confidence on the airline. It is to ascertain the adequacy and the propriety of the operating aircraft,” he said.
The director-general stated that the decision to suspend operations of the aircraft type was not new to the industry but in accordance with standard operating procedures, which is done all over the world.
Commenting on the suspension, Bristow said it would abide by the suspension, acknowledging that it was standard practice.
“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has advised Bristow to temporarily stop operation of the Sikorsky S-76C family of aircraft in Nigeria.
“We are continuing to cooperate fully with the NCAA and the Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau (NAIB) in its investigation concerning the Bristow helicopter that was involved in the controlled water landing near Lagos on Febuary 3, 2016,” it said.
Industry experts however wondered why Bristow, an international reputable organisation, has within a short period amassed a record of so many accidents.
The Secretary-General of Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said: “These nine accidents involved 10 aircraft from one operator. How would NCAA explain this to the public when safety recommendations were made for each accident report?
“Were there no considerations to conduct surveys instead of audits on the operator? These incessant accidents need special surveys on the operations, maintenance and crew licensing of the operations, and not just the audit of the company.”
Ojikutu was of the view that the company should be shut down until a complete survey is carried out.