Sunday, June 03, 2012

More Than 160 Dead As Nigerian Airliner Crashes Into Neighborhood Near Lagos

An MD-83 passenger plane crashed into a building near the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, today, killing all 153 on board, and at least 10 people in the neighborhood where the plane crashed.

The plane crashed and burned in a densely populated residential area near Lagos Murtala Muhammed airport. It wasn't immediately clear how many people on the ground were killed.

[UPDATE: Here's an excellent story by the AP, via the Guardian newspaper.]

The plane was flown by Nigeria's Dana Air (here's their Website) and was bound for Lagos from Abuja.

Here's the preliminary report on the specific details of the accident by the Flight Safety Foundation. The MD83 was initially delivered to Alaska Airlines in 1990, and experienced two electrical/smoke incidents during its service. Alaska stored it at the aircraft storage "boneyard" site in Victorville, Calif., briefly in the summer of 2008 before sending it to Miami for maintenance. The plane was then delivered to Dana in February 2009.

Nigeria has long had one of the worst aviation-safety reputations in the world, though the country has been claiming improvements in that record in recent years.

For eight years until 2000, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had signs in U.S. international airports warning that security and safety conditions at the Lagos airport did not meet international standards, and even suspended service from the U.S. to Lagos for a short period. The airport was known as a center for criminal activity, where immigration officers routinely demanded bribes, and robberies -- including robberies on parked planes -- were common. The Nigerian government eventually cracked down on the crime problem, and the FAA lifted its flight suspensions to the Lagos airport in 2001.

But today's crash occurred only a day after a Boeing 727-200 freighter operated by Nigerian carrier Allied Air Cargo for DHL Aviation veered off the runway at Accra’s Kotoka airport in Ghana, after a flight from Lagos. The plane plowed through the airport fence and struck several vehicles, killing 10 people on the ground. The four crew members survived.

In Nigeria, the last major airline crash before today's was in October 2006, when an ADC airliner crashed after take-off from Abuja, killing 96 people.

In December 2005, 103 people, most of them schoolchildren, were killed when another Nigerian commercial airliner crashed and burst into flames in oil city, Port Harcourt. Two months before that, 117 were killed in a 737 crash in Lagos.

Here's a timeline of Nigerian air disasters before today's.

One part of the overall problem in Nigeria is operating a complicated, high-cost business like an airline, which requires careful maintenance and upkeep, in a largely corrupt society. See this.

Dana Air, operator of the flight that crashed today, started up in 2008. On its Web site it stresses whjat it calls its commitment to safety, saying: "Dana Air places a high premium on safety. The airline adheres strictly to the maintenance schedule for all aircrafts in its fleet, as prescribed by the manufacturers and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority. More detailed and scheduled checks of the Boeing MD83 aircrafts are, however, carried out at aircrafts maintenance facilities overseas."


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