The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) of the crashed Dana plane was consumed by the post accident fire, which lasted for about 20 hours, the chief of Nigeria’s accident investigation agency said on Friday.
Commissioner Mukhtar Usman of the country’s Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) told journalists at a press conference in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, that while the solid component of the FDR was recovered, the digital part of the device was lost to the post crash fire.
“It’s like cooking an egg. The shell is intact but the egg inside is destroyed,” Usman said.
A Flight Data Recorder (FDR), also known as Accident Data Recorder (ADR), is an electronic device employed to record any instructions sent to any electronic systems on an aircraft.
It is the most vital device used in identifying the cause of an air disaster. Its loss often renders the cause of an accident speculative.
Usman said America’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation, where the Dana FDR was taken, could not retrieve anything from the device.
He said only 31-minute conversation was retrieved from the Cockpit Voice Recorder, CVR.
Usman disclosed that the engine of the crashed plane has also been taken to the Washington-based organisation for further investigations.
Since the 3 June Dana plane crash several panels have been set up in Lagos where the accident occurred and in Abuja home to the Ministry of Aviation and the National Assembly.
The reasons were to investigate the direct and remote causes of the crash, but Usman said the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, recognises only AIB and no others.
The AIB boss was however evasive over past plane crashes and did not answer questions directly about why reports of accidents that took place six years ago have not been released.
He said his agency is not meant to apportion blames but to find the causes of an accident and make recommendations to relevant agencies.
He said AIB releases accident reports to the presidency through the Ministry of Aviation.
The AIB boss dodged questions about Bellview or ADC plane crashes, two air disasters which have made Nigerians lose trust in the country’s investigation body.
Usman said his agency has made 32 safety recommendations to the Nigerian government with 20 of them accepted while 12 are yet to be attended to.
Still he did not disclose the recommendations AIB has made since it was established by the country’s National Assembly in 2006.
Usman said the bureau is close to launching its own $5.5 million FDR/CVR laboratory system in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
AIB headquarters are located at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, but Usman said all over the world such laboratories are located in the capital cities.
He said the project is being handled by CAE/FlightScape of Canada.
He said the laboratory once launched will enable the bureau to download both flight recorders promply during accident investigation.
“Hitherto and now, these units are taken overseas for downloading,” Usman said.
He explained that FDR/CVR lab will also have the capability of being used for real-time flight data monitoring.
-Simon Ateba/Aviation correspondent