Dana Air will fly again once cleared

2012-06-15 22:09

Lagos - The Nigerian air carrier that crashed and killed more than 150 people will soon fly again, despite public concerns about its fleet of aging aircraft, a company executive said on Thursday.

Investigators continue to probe what caused a Dana Air MD-83 to lose power in both its engines and crash on 3 June in a Lagos neighbourhood.

Gautam Hathiramani, a member of the airline's board of directors, said in an interview that the carrier has complete faith in its five remaining MD-83s as airlines across the world still fly them.

"We have no hesitation to fly them again because we've always had them fully serviced and they're certified they're airworthy before they go up in the air," Hathiramani said.

Others, however, remain sceptical of the airline and its’ authorities after the crash in Nigeria, a country that has suffered through a string of major airline crashes through the decades.

The MD-83s in Dana Air’s fleet are all more than 20 years old, an age not unusual among airlines, though planes often require more maintenance and attention the older they become.

"It's a tried-and-tested model and it was the right size and configuration for the market," Hathiramani said.

Turkish company

Dana, an airline that began flying in 2008, relies on Turkish maintenance company MyTechnic to service its aircraft The airline once used Spanish international carrier Iberia to perform maintenance on its planes, but chose MyTechnic in 2010 as it could have technicians on the ground in Nigeria, Hathiramani said. The airline flies the aircraft to Istanbul for heavy maintenance checks, the executive said.

Hathiramani said that Dana still consults with Iberia, now owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group. However, an Iberia spokesperson said that the company ended its maintenance contract with the carrier in 2010.

Hathiramani said he didn't know whether MyTechnic offered a cheaper maintenance contract than Iberia.

Dana is a major brand in Nigeria, run by Indian families who have lived in the country for decades. Its holdings also include a plastic manufacturer, a pharmaceutical arm and other industries.

However, there have been safety concerns raised in the past about its importation of Kia automobiles in Nigeria, with some complaining the company refused to honour recall notices issued by the manufacturer. Hathiramani said he had no information about those complaints.

Aviation authorities have halted flights by Dana Air as an investigation continues into the crash of the plane coming into Lagos from the nation's capital, Abuja. Its pilots radioed in just before the crash to say both engines had failed.

Since the crash, civil aviation authorities in Nigeria have come under increasing political and public pressure. The civil aviation authority grounded Air Nigeria, the country's second-largest airline, for safety checks after a strike by engineers.

On Thursday, its flights had resumed, as customers in a domestic terminal at Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport walked past a condolence registry and two lit white candles at the Dana Air check-in counter.

Hathiramani said Dana Air continued to call on relatives of those killed in the crash to come forward and identify themselves so bodies can be claimed and insurance payments be routed to families. He acknowledged the public anger the company now faces and said the company wanted both its officials and the public to know the cause of the crash before it begins flights again.

"They have every reason to know what happened," he said. "We're just as equally committed to finding out the true cause of what happened here".