Navy helicopter crashes in Bayelsa State

An Agusta A109E Power (NN 07) of the Nigerian Navy on its way to Port Harcourt Airport crashed in Bayelsa State on 15 December 2012, around 15:30. The two pilots and four passengers were killed in the accident. Among the casualties were Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa, and the former National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi. It is the third Agusta A109E lost by the Nigerian Navy out a fleet of six helicopters since 2006.



19 responses to “Navy helicopter crashes in Bayelsa State”

  1. Naijajet says :

    This crash is a shame to the Navy to say the least. They have totalled 3/4 A109 in about 5 years, while sister force NAF have lost non. They cleary have some process issues operating choppers and should handover that opx to NAF who are more capable.

  2. Greg says :

    I have to agree with Naijajet about a NAF takeover. If the Navy can’t fly choppers, let those who can, do it. They had a better record with the Westland chppers of the eighties, although, they flew that type (two machines) for few years.

    A possible factor?: Today’s Punch newspaper reports an eyewitness account of up to ten sorties before the fateful one. Did the engines get tired or too hot? Then again, that’s so elementary, even a student pilot would have spotted the danger.

    May the departed souls R.I.P, amen

    • Mr. Smith says :

      But the air force is also crashing fighter jets and trainers. The discipline in the armed forces is clearly lacking. Let’s hope it doesn’t degenerate to the levels of the police.

      • Eric says :

        Those accidents with the Air force were mostly training flights. The ones with the navy were not training flights.

  3. airsupport says :

    First of all, I don’t want to speculate about the cause of the crash, even though speculation is probably the only thing we have to go on. But i want to raise certain issues that need to be addressed in Nigerian military aviation.
    Air crashes are usually caused by Human factors (at least 75%). I have a problem with the disproportionate used of Nigerian military air assets for VIP transportation purposes.
    Military pilots are trained to have a do or die mentality when executing missions. This mentality is essential for effectiveness in combat operations. But a problem arises when this mentality is applied to VIP transport which requires a more “civilian” approach.
    This combat mentality may have manifested itself during the first NN Agusta crash. The mission was to deliver electoral materials and there may have been a possibility that the crew were pushed beyond their limits.
    In civilian flying there are set limits of operation based on safety first. But the military is required to keep going on when everyone else is tucked.
    VIP flying, especially governmental VIP flying, puts a lot of pressure on the pilots to get OGA there. The polish Presidential crash is a classic example. The Polish COAS entered into the cockpit thereby putting immense pressure on the pilots to execute their mission and they paid the ultimate price.
    One issue to look out for is FATIGUE. The guys where flying all day. Civil aviation has Flight time limitations (FTLs) which govern duty and rest periods to avoid fatigue but unfortunately military aviators are not governed by the same.
    The Naval Aviators cannot be blamed because they did their duty which is to give everything including their lives to ensure the mission gets accomplished. Its the mentality that is to blame.
    Solution: All VIP flying should be handed over to civilian units. Military pilots can be seconded to these units but the flying should be done to civilian standards. This way when our heroes give their lives, they will do so in real heroic “do or die” situations and not in the process of trying to ferry celebrities to an “owanbe”.

    RIP Brave Military aviators.

  4. skywalker says :

    Airsupport echoed my thought’s word for word. If VIP’s have to flown around, then I believe that’s what PAF is for. There is no problem with the Navy having an air-wing, but VIP movements should be restricted to some sort of Transport Squadron/group of the Air-force who should have Civil Aviation orientation and not the Military “never question orders even if I am Dying” orientation. I wonder how many A109’s they have left. remember one of the A109’s that crashed where witnesses reported rotor blades leaving the aircraft shortly before it crashed.
    Well the armed forces should should know that rules are rules and whatever applies to everyone (i.e civil Aviation) also applies to them regardless. If they indeed flew 10 sorties prior, then you are looking at both pilot and aircraft fatigue.
    well its too late now, RIP to all Lost @Bayelsa

  5. Greg says :

    airsupport, I agree with you 100%, on every score. But the real tragedy is what will change, after this loss of lives: you can bet, very little. On this forum all too frequently, I’ve had to throw my arms up in despair, leading Alaba Bham to dub me, “Cynic”. May the departed R.I.P

  6. Alaba says :

    I believe all Navy chopper flying should be suspended immediately pending a safety review not lasting longer than three months (none of Nija’s 3 year inquiries with nonsensical outcomes).

    The combined numbers of the Agusta helicopters in both NAF and NN warrants an investment of less than four million euros in an Agusta flight simulator located in country to enhance and retain A109 flying skills. A monthly trip into a ssim locally could do wonders and also weed out those who cant do. (Yes, this idea will be fought against because of earning foreign estacodes and expenditure).

    Also such a simulator will create a larger pool of pilots which in turn will negate human fatigue and sortie attrition. I wonder whether military pilots disregard minimum equipment lists especially in current hi a tech display environment which gives them instant data on possible system failures.

    Centralised NN and NAF maintenance for the Agustas to share skills.

    Time and again, we invest huge amounts of money on military spending with little return on money spent. A fast jet pilot from ab initio costs maybe N250m, annual flying time is low and within 10 years, he or she is sat in an office no longer current on any aircraft but with great job perks.

    How many MiG 21 / Jaguar / Alpha pilots from the 80s and early 90s transitioned onto the Shenyang microwaved versions or indeed are still flying?

    There’ll be responses stating fast jet flying is a young person’s game but I’ve seen these veterans looking like they would struggle to fit into an xxxl flying suit let alone a g suit.

    Greg the Cynic will note I have made points but also the likely cons!

  7. Anonymous says :

    nr 3 AW-109 crashed …. NN06 & NN07
    any info about identity of nr 3? MATIA

  8. Ekwu Innocent says :

    The Nigerian forces Helicopters, what can we says about the routing and regular turn around maintance on a every flight movement or start-up before another in accordance with the IATAS helicopter manual maintances standard.

  9. Greg says :

    Alaba, I shudder at the technical issues you raise, as regards ops, because, I easily see our military pilots as macho types who will gloss over safety steps in order to “get the job done” and live up to a certain image. And one can not blame them completely for that: it has to do, to a large extent, with their orientation, their calling. Perhaps a line should be drawn somewhere limiting military pilots from flying civies? Or, perhaps if they do, they should switch to strict civilian standards and jettison the warrior ethic?

    • Alaba says :

      Airsupport, was the electoral crash an Agusta or NAF Mil?

      Various newspaper reports 10- 15 sorties before the crash. Which if any is correct?

      The question is: Do we accept higher than normal attrition rates due to the ‘can do’ and ‘mission driven’ attitudes of military flyers? If we all do, then case closed, let’s go home until NN runs out of helicopters. (I don’t mean to sound facetious as people have lost their lives).
      However as noted by Naijajet further up, the difference in NAF and NN losses are marked. An investigative panel has been set up and we might not hear anything ever again!

      A safety review run by the NAF would better. Why? Their helicopter safety record is better. The Agusta is also part of their fleet which is as diverse as can be. Their logistics on training and maintenance must be amazing taking into account equipment from Russia, Belarus, France and Italian etc.
      They could look at everything from NN selection of pilots, ab initio training, simulator and maintenance records and reports. If we are to believe press reports, the pilots had 800 and 300 hours respectively described as being very ‘experienced’. I don’t agree.

      There should be a line between aggressive flying and safe flying after all Nigeria as a country has invested heavily in these pilots and their machines. I, for one want them to continue flying as long as possible to get the most out of their skills. In a combat environment, I guess aggressive flying is called for and paradoxically NAF fast jet pilots feature heavily on a list of those who have punched out or ejected from planes.

      Greg, we can’t limit military pilots from flying civilians especially in a national emergency scenario or transport. I have never been as scared as a guest on a C130 into Jos during the Harmattan in zero visibility many moons ago. Told later we almost collided with the tower.
      Having written before about the huge anti terrorism defence related procurement which is great but I fail to see the support and training systems in place. I rather suspect in five years or so, many of these air assets will be grounded for lack of spares or crashed through inadequate training.
      I hope I’m proved wrong.

      • Naijajet says :

        Very correct Alaba….I know Pilot 3,000+ on the commercial side who are not yet flying as captains in Nigeria, even though the have passed all relevant ATP(H) exams…

  10. Alaba says :

    Naijajet. You are so right. Many helicopter operators in Europe will not recruit helo co-pilots with less than 1000 hours.

  11. airsupport says :

    Military flying is a completely different ball game from civilian flying. Generally military pilots do not fly that much. It is not unusual for a military pilot in the UK or US to end a flying career with 3000 hours.i know a former Canadian Air force FA18 pilot who is now a test pilot for a major manufacturer and he has about 3-4000 hours. No airline in Nigeria will upgrade a pilot to captain status with 3000 hours. But generally good military air services have very rigorous selection and training regimes that the sparce flying is not really an issue. I’ve heard of coalition fast jet pilots going into combat in the middle east with just 200-300 flying hours. Its also not unusual in the USAF to have a C130 even C17 commanded by a 1000 hour pilot. Based on that I would consider the experience of the NN aviators to be adequate. What matters more is the quality of training and the standards of operations. I had the opportunity of meeting some of the first set of NN A109 pilots not long after the machines were first acquired and the first impression i got was good. They had a test pilot from Agusta who was seconded to them to train them. I believe NAF had a similar arrangement when they acquired the A109s, the ATR42s and also when the refurbished the G222s.
    Unfortunately I do not have enough inside knowledge to comment on the operation standards of the NN air wing especially how they deal with pressure from above, nepotism, corruption and all other “Nigerian factors”.

    The Owerri crash was a Navy A109 carrying ballot boxes. Deteoriating lighting conditions while trying to land at an airport with no night landing facilities. I will not put much blame on the pilots as the pressures on both military and civilian pilots in this airspace make it commonplace for operational limitations to be violated.

  12. Eric says :

    @airsupport, Well said and I agree with you.

    I read an article recently on military aviation which made me to do some research. It was about the Royal Air force and it was said there that on average, RAF fast jet pilots achieve 210 flying hours per year, while RAF transport and aerial refueling pilots achieve 290 flying hours per year, RAF pilots on transport and support helicopters achieve 240 flying hours per year.

  13. sunday says :

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