After months of investigation, Nigeria’s Accident and Investigation Bureau (AIB) has revealed why the helicopter, which conveyed the country’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to Kabba in north-central Kogi State crashed last year.
During the last election campaigns, Osinbajo had departed Abuja on February 2, 2019, on a chartered helicopter flight to Kabba in continuation of the family chats and next level engagements.
The helicopter, which conveyed the VP, an Agusta Westland (AW139) helicopter with nationality and registration marks 5N-CML, is owned and operated by Caverton Helicopters Limited.
It had 12 persons on-board, including the VP, his entourage and three crew members which included the captain, co-pilot and an engineer.
The cause of the crash was revealed by the Commissioner of AIB, Akin Olateru in a final report released by the bureau in Abuja on Tuesday.
According to the bureau, the crew lost visual contact with the ground and external surroundings.
Also, the bureau faulted the crew for inappropriate landing techniques and limited planning before commencement of the flight.
Giving details of what led to the crash in Kabba, Olateru said: “At about 13:46hrs, the helicopter departed Abuja runway 22 for Kabba.
“Onboard were 12 persons including the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, his entourage, and three crew members (Pilot, Co-pilot, and an Engineer).
“The flight crew stated that they sighted the intended landing area as a result of the cloud of residual dust generated by the downwash of a Police helicopter.”
He continued: “After sighting the football field, the flight crew approached with the speed of 20ft to about a 100ft, and entered a hover to land.
“At about 50ft above ground level, a brownout set in. The flight crew lost visual contact with the ground and external surroundings.
“The co-pilot began radio altitude callouts “35, 30, 25, 20 and 15”. At about 14:34h, the helicopter experienced a hard landing on the right main landing gear and rolled over onto its right side. All persons on board were evacuated uninjured.
“The flight crew encountered a brownout condition during the hover to land, which led to the loss of external visual references, spatial disorientation, and loss of situational awareness resulting in a misjudgement of distance and ground clearance, as the flight, the crew tried to control the helicopter’s movements for landing. The helicopter landed hard and rolled over on its right side.”
On other factors that may have led to the crash, he said: “Inappropriate landing technique used, non-adherence to company procedures for known or anticipated brownout condition during landing and lack of risk assessment, limited landing site preparation, and planning prior to commencement of the flight.”