NCAA wades in to forestal accident, suspends Max Air’s B737 operations over safety

  • Airlines in violations of CVR overwrite

With its poor safety record, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has wielded the big stick by suspending all Max Air’s operations using the B737 aircraft in its fleet.

The aviation regulatory body was compelled to take the action following four occurrences recorded this year alone by Max Air involving its Boeing 737 aircraft.

The occurrences were recorded between May and July this year in Abuja, Kano, and Yola.

This is coming amid criminal offence of some airlines that have engaged in the overwriting of Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVR) in their aircraft to hide serious incidents from regulatory inspectors.

The CVR is a device used to record the audio environment in the flight deck for accidents and incident investigation purposes. The CVR records and stores the audio signals of the microphones and earphones of the pilots’ headsets and of an area microphone installed in the cockpit.
Max Air’s B737 airplane
In a letter of suspension to the airline dated and signed by the Director, Operations Training & Licensing, Captain Ibrahim Bello Dambazau for Director General, Civil Aviation read,  “The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) hereby suspends Parts A3 (Aircraft Authorisation) and D43 (Aircraft Listing) of the Operations Specifications issued to Max Air Ltd. with regards to the operations of the Boeing B737 aircraft type in your fleet”.

“With the above suspension, you are to immediately suspend the operations of all Boeing B737 aircraft in your fleet.

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Parts A3 deals with the airline’s Aircraft Authorization and D43 deals with Aircraft Listing of the Operations Specifications issued to Max Air Ltd.

The letter also detailed all the occurrences involving its Boeing B737 aircraft which led to the Authority’s action which includes; the loss of the number one Main Landing Gear (MLG) wheel during the serious incident involving a Boeing 737-400 aircraft, registration marks 5N-MBDwhich occurred between take-off at Yola Airport Adamawa State and on landing at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja Nigeria on May 7th, 2023; fuel Contamination of the main fuel tanks of aircraft B737-300, Registration Marks; 5N-MHM, leading to the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) shutdown on ground Yola Airport on the 7th of July, 2023;

Other infractions were the aborted take-off of Boeing 737-400 aircraft, registration marks 5N-MBD, which occurred at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) due to high Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) indication on the 11th of July, 2023; an air return by aircraft B737-300, Registration Marks; 5N-MHM to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) due to duct overheat indication in the cockpit on the 11th of July, 2023.

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The letter also disclosed that, with the development, a team of inspectors had been constituted to conduct an audit on Max Air and the outcome of the audit if satisfactory will determine whether the suspended aircraft type will return to operation or not.

Max Air, regarded as the second largest airline by fleet size had severally been accused of engaging in safety infractions by both the NCAA and the Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB).

A preliminary report by the NSIB had accused Max Air of overwriting the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) in the May 7, 2023 incident at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja with the carrier claiming ignorance of NCAA’s All Operators Letter (AOL) on continuous CVR overwriting.

The report was on the incident involving a Boeing 737-400 with 143 passengers, with the report stating that the airline’s pilot ignored a passenger alert about a wheel falling off during take-off.

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In a bid to prevent a recurrence of such incident, NSIB recommended to NCAA to invoke the relevant sections of Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) 2015 in accordance with IS 1.3.3 Legal Enforcement Actions to non-compliant operators with the AOL (NCAA/FSG/AOL/19/03) on continuous overwriting of CVR information by airlines.

DG NCAA, Capt Musa Nuhu

The NSIB’s report also revealed that the airline entered the wrong tech log of the serial number of the incident aircraft, while the quality control department did not supervise the maintenance action of the brake unit and wheel change on 5N-MBD conducted on May 5, 2023.

Max Air is not the first airline that would be accused of overwriting the CVR in the sector. Air Peace had also a few years ago been accused of the great offence of overwriting CVR in a bid to circumvent the investigation.

Wole Shadare