Opinion: Mr. President, we can lessen crashes through healthy regulationColumnists, Headlines, John Egbeazien Oshodi Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
June 6, 2012 by John Egbeazien Oshodi
On an emotional note, President Goodluck Jonathan’s assertion in Lagos on Monday that there will not be a recurrence of the air disaster is understandable and is well taken but it is, evidently, a fantasy at best.
The Dana Airline’s McDonnell Douglas MD-83 which killed more than 153 travellers and residents is a great shame as it was a disaster waiting to happen.
It could be said that the Ministry of Aviation under the watch of the President may have been trying to improve on the health of the sector in Nigeria, but the current occurrence does not support such efforts.
Obviously, this crash could have been avoided, if the nation’s regulatory agencies were up and doing in their responsibilities, given the apparent reports that this very airplane had a long and bad history of being mechanically deficient. And it certainly would be most surprising if this history of faultiness was new to the aviation authorities.
Like everything else in Nigeria, the country remains a dumping ground for most things rejected from the White man’s land. Nigeria, as a land known, sadly, for its ingrained corruption, deep-seated indifference and inadequate record management, it is possible that the worst of the worst airplanes are all over the country.
Mr. President, like you in terms of your tearful visit to the site of crash, in my role as a human psychologist in America for almost three decades till my recent return home, it is profusely tearful and painful for me to know that this same plane was a reject from the United States of America.
It is not surprising that in a country where our people are helpless over what the government does that this American-built airplane was once a piece of mechanical nuisance. A cause and a curse that resulted in its original owners, an American-based Alaska Airlines selling it to the Dana Airlines in early part of 2009. The sickly plane which was used from 1990 to 2009, and then dumped on the Dana Airlines for an apparently good price for the Indian Company, would enter Africa and settle in Nigeria—where anything goes apparently.
Now, we know from the US that in November of 2002, the plane had severe mechanical faults, suffered from overheated lightballast, and in August of 2006, it had a smoking problem due to a chaffed wire bundle that was discharging and passengers had to be quickly moved out upon landing in Long Beach, California.
With all these life-threatening problems, it speaks volumes that a plane like this was dumped on us having been certified by Nigerian aviation experts!
Mr. President, in your time, our administrators including those in the aviation sector, should stop playing with the lives of Nigerians, especially now that we know that this same fatal plane reportedly continued to have problems in Nigeria as recently as a few days ago.
With tears in my face, the colonial mentality that anything or anybody from the Whiteman’s land is better than anybody black is why a mechanically disturbed plane like the MD-83 with an aged background of 1983 would be certified as a go-ahead aircraft in Nigeria. This is shameful and disheartening!
Many of these deficient and aged planes are made worse by the Nigeria-conditions in regard to our aviation environments which are marked with poor electricity, and periodic failures of diesel generators which could affect everything from radar screens to all forms of communication.
As a practising clinical/forensic psychologist, it is a fact that pilots in places like the US go through a series of psychological testing as it is a way to monitor their mental health, judgment, insight, alertness and problem-solving skills. Psychological testing which should be routine and recurrent, is not the same thing as psychiatric testing which is more about medication-based mental health assessment and treatment.
Psychological testing is about personality characteristics and intellectual competence. Given that psychological health is a very essential aspect of safety, pilots flying in Nigeria should be tested by competent clinical psychologists as part of pre-employment and post-occupation requirements.
They should also be subjected to at least an annual medical certification examination by an ethical physician. Also video monitoring of what is happening in the cockpits of all planes is needed as it could enhance safety.
Besides, given that air business is risky, our air traffic controllers could also benefit from psychological testing as there have been various problems in this area.
The improvements in equipment and procedures in any matter involving air transport are essential, therefore, for the benefit of all flyers. Every problem involving air safety, no matter how minimal, should be quickly investigated and corrected. This correction must be supported with documentation in electronic, internet and paper forms,followed by public announcement on radio and in the television.
There is also the need for proactive safety checks and monitoring of pilots and aircraft to ensure full quality assurance and continued aviation safety in Nigeria.
The saying by many Nigerians that some of the stated recommendations are “things that they do in overseas and that we have not reached that point yet”, makes many reasonable persons uncomfortable as these are common sense procedures that are common to all humanity.
Life in Nigeria has in recent months been touched by numerous painful events and sad occurrences but for lessons to be learnt, appropriate, ethical and standard ways of being functional must be carried out and accomplished soonest.
-Oshodi, Ph.D., an Abuja-based forensic/clinical psychologist, wrote in via Jos5930458@aol.com. 08126909839
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