Obudu Ranch, Another Bermuda Triangle?

The Hausa/Fulani aircraft engineer, who had been lamenting the death of Nigeria Airways at the hands of military and civilian ex-presidents in some our past editions, is now here lamenting the sheer complacency that had led to two air-crashes en route Obudu Ranch, Cross River State. “This reminds one of Bermuda Triangle…,” he says.  Jonah Etufunwa reports the chat between FORTUNE & CLASS Weekly and the retired engineer.

 

Is Obudu Ranch, now a kind of Bermuda Triangle?

Out of sheer complacency, we are creating one. Planes do not fly in the sky (in the void) Take-off and landing of any plane go with some fundamentals: predicting the weather, the control tower, aerial navigation, etc. For safe flight (take-off and landing), all the fundamentals are non-negotiable.

Do our airline operators, civil and military observe these fundamentals?

To their best, they do, because they value their lives and that of the passengers. Mind you, the first law in aviation is safety, like we used to say in school of aviation. There are brave young pilots; there are no brave old pilots’

What do you mean?

You can’t defy nature. The mind may be  willing, but the reflex may not be there because of age. In spite of modern technology, man has to be in the cockpit for passenger confidence to be there.

At what age should a pilot retire, does it mean it is the younger the better?

Medicine and good living have improved life-span from 60 to 65 now…

How do all these affect the two aviation tragedies at Obudu Ranch?

Ours is a need neglected

What need had been neglected at Obudu Ranch?

Obudu is nature’s beauty charming the elite, yet like several other airstrips, the necessary things have not been done. And this negligence has proven expensive. Cream of our generals lost their lives to this national odious negligence.

Were the aviation professionals not aware of these facts before the ill-fated flight of the generals from Abuja to Obudu?

Our generals were gathered from all over the country at Abuja and finally, Makurdi. The military air-flight operators were aware. But you see, in Nigeria, orders from above sometimes would demand you doing the impossible. And familiarity can breed contempt.

What do you mean?

Here, presumptuous familiarity with the weather can just be misleading. In spite of all the instrumentations in the aircraft, bravery and acumen of the flight group, God’s mercy, often save the day, but it wasn’t so with the two tragedies at Obudu; these incidents make it look like Bermuda Triangle where anything on air or sea disappears without trace at this spot. The ability to find way around the skies, pilots need to know their position and their direction. Finding direction using simple magnetic compass, is easy and there is, at least, one of these on every flight deck. Other kinds of aircraft use gyroscope (rotating wheel, the axis of which is free to turn in any direction and which can be set to rotate in any place independently of forces tending to change the position of the axis).

The modern aircraft compasses are complex and highly efficient. You see, finding position is more difficult for a pilot than finding direction, hence the need for complex aids on the ground to air.

What went wrong with the generals’ flight?

The pilot must have flown there severally without mishaps. You see, oldest and simplest form of aerial navigation is still used by pilots of light aircraft that depends on ground recognizable landmarks. The pilot pilots his track on the map before take-off and using his compass, will simply fly in the right direction.

Knowing his speed can enable him calculate when he should fly over certain landmarks and so he can check his progress.

But wind, carrying the aircraft off course, or possibly causing sudden speed ups of slowdowns, can upset such simple navigation. However, by relating to last known position, to the direction he has flown, than the speed, the pilot is able to determine an approximate position several times during the course of the flight.

This then creates a kind of circle called ‘circle of uncertainty’ whose radius is said to be about ten per cent of the distance flown since the last landmark. A seasoned captain in that ill-fated air-flight, who must have flown that route severally, must have encountered adverse weather phenomenon of some sort that is avoidable if only radar coverage was accorded that air-strip.

Was lack of radar coverage a cause of the air-crash?

Absolutely!

Right now, is there radar coverage at Obudu Ranch?

There are several air-strips nationwide without radar coverage, but the potential of Obudu Ranch, should accord it that little privilege.

Is radar coverage financially prohibitive that Nigeria cannot afford it?

This only reminds me of a statement created to Collin Powell that ‘Nigerians are basically scammers.’ You’ll recall that N300billion was budgeted for road repairs sometime ago, but only a 100 and something billion was eventually released. A case of neglect on the part of government to see that our roads are repaired! What happens on the ground in Nigeria also happens in the air, because we have lost value for human life; which is really tragic.

Talking about negligence of our roads, do you think Ore to Benin Road, does not need an urgent declaration of state of emergency?

It’s like something is wrong with us black people south of the Sahara. We’re caged by land, see and air. And we cannot develop without ease of transportation in those areas. Talking about air, where is Air Afrique, Ghana Airways, Cameroun Airways and Nigeria Airways. In spite of the endowed human and natural resources of the respective nations, such vital colonial legacies could not be sustained, let alone be improved upon. Glaring economic trapping by seas, land and air, in whose interest? Certainly, not national interest!  Surreptitiously, the Nigerian National Shipping Line eventually disappeared, and to date, Nigeria Railway is on the verge too. They all died at the hands of civil war heroes who would have appreciated transport system without which they would not have won the war. They killed the system with their own economic warfare against Nigerians. IBB with his SAP; Obj with his belt-tightening as military head of state and with his reforms as a democratically elected president with tacit backing of IBB, both contributed to our present economic malaise.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: