The Flight Dispatchers Association of Nigeria (FLIDAN) has expressed disappointment over the suspension of the flight dispatcher who dispatched the United Nigeria aircraft that landed at the Asaba International Airport instead of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Sunday.
According to the secretary general of the association, Victoria Adegbe, the suspension of its member was illegal because the aircraft Pilot and the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) disregarded the operational control of the flight dispatcher.
The group, therefore, asked the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to investigate the Operations Control of the United Nigeria Airlines, which, it said seized Operational Control from the Flight Dispatcher on duty.
Adegbe stated that the Airlines’ Operations Control contravened the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulation (NCAR) which states that a pilot shall take to the destination airport a copy of the Flight Plan, Dispatch Release and Load Manifest.
She said, “both the Pilot and The ATC seem not to follow what was filed which by implication, meant that they disregarded ‘Operational Control’ of the Flight Dispatcher which empowers a 50% Joint and Equal Responsibility of the safety of the flight to the Flight Dispatcher.
“The Airlines’ Operational Control which allowed a pilot to generate his own Operational Flight Plan (OFP) thereby taking the full responsibility of the Dispatch Release is an outright breach of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, NCAR Part 8.
“The Airlines’ Operations Control further contravened the NCAR which states that an airline pilot shall take to the destination airport a copy of the Flight Plan, Dispatch Release and Load Manifest. By implication, if the pilot had the flight plan on him, he would have gotten his destination right, the Dispatch Release if it was with him summarises the departure and destination which was clearly disregarded.
“The ATC should not have granted a scheduled flight clearance to depart to a destination that was not as filed by the Flight Dispatcher.
“The Airline, in a show of absolute disregard for Aviation Law went ahead to suspend the Flight Dispatcher who upheld the Licence issued by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and carried out his job as required by law.
“We call on the NCAA to beam a searchlight on the Operations Control of the Airline which has seized Operational Control from the Flight Dispatcher.”
Adegbe further stated that as against the report by the airline, the weather folder given by the dispatcher showed that Abuja weather was okay and the tower granted the pilot’s request to land in Asaba against the legal flight plan submitted by the flight dispatcher.
“The Flight Dispatcher followed the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, Part 8 – Operations; by filing a flight plan with Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) which was transmitted to the Control Tower.
“Departure-Lagos. Destination- Abuja, First Alternate- Enugu, Second Alternate- Port Harcourt. Time of flight: 13:00 Flight Duration: 55mins Endurance: 6 hours
“The weather folder given showed Abuja weather was okay. The Pilot called the Air Traffic Control (Tower) for clearance to depart to Asaba. The Tower granted the request against the legal flight plan submitted by the Flight Dispatcher,” Adegbe stated.
Reports shows that the United Nigeria Airlines had attributed the Abuja flight diversion to Asaba, Delta State, to “poor destination weather”, an excuse that has been faulted by many, who opined that Asaba is far from Abuja when the flight can easily land in nearest places like Kaduna, Minna in Niger State or even Jos, Plateau State.
Recall that the development also forced the NCAA to immediately summon operators with Wet Lease aircraft and issued fresh guidelines for their operations.
With FLIDAN accusing the United Nigeria Airlines of scapegoating its member and telling lies about “poor” Abuja weather, it’s apparent the controversy about the development has just started with more likely revelations.