Report Shows How Associated Aircraft Crashed. • Captain Defied Warnings To Abort Flight • Plane Nose Dived 31 Seconds After Take Off • Right Engine Produced Less Thrust At Take-Off

PERHAPS, the crash of Associated Airlines Flight 361 carrying the remains of former Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu and some close family members and associates could have been avoided had the captain heeded the “automated warning from the onboard computer voice, which consisted of three chimes followed by take-off flaps. Report says the accident could have been avoided had the crew aborted the flight.
It disclosed that the aircraft impacted the ground near aviation fuel depot, popularly referred to as Joint Users Hydrant Installations (JUHI) at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, 31 seconds after the warning stall was heard, with a nose down near 90 degrees right bank.
This is a configuration warning that suggests that the flaps were not in the correct position for the take-off.
At the time of the accident, the AIB stated that the “right engine appeared to be producing less thrust than the left engine”.
In response to the First Officer’s question as to whether the flight should not be aborted, the captain, Abdulrahaman Yakubu, “indicated that they should continue and they continued the take-off roll.”
The Accident Investigation Bureau’s (AIB) preliminary report noted that, “the crew did not make a V1 call or a Vr call.
A V1 call is the speed at which decision to abort or continue a take-off is made, while Vr call is the speed at which it is planned to rotate the aircraft.
Normally, the non-flying pilot calls both the V1 and the Vr speed. When Vr is called, the flying pilot pulls back on the control column and the aircraft is rotated to climb away from the runway.
The report also noted that during the rotation, the First Officer stated ‘gently’, which the AIB believes reflects concern that the aircraft was not performing normally and therefore needed to be rotated very gently so as not to aerodynamically stall the aircraft.
The warning did not appear to come as any surprise to the crew as they continued normally with the process of verifying the accuracy of the flight data, just as AIB is yet to confirm the actual flap setting, promising to determine this in the fullness of time.
“The First Officer indicated that the aircraft was not climbing and advised the captain who was flying not to stall the aircraft. Higher climb angles can cause an aerodynamic stall. If the aircraft is not producing enough overall thrust, it is difficult or impossible to climb without the risk of an aerodynamic stall”.
“Immediately after the lift up, the aircraft slowly veered off the runway heading to the right and was not climbing properly. This aircraft behavior appears to have resulted in the air traffic controller asking Flight 361 if operation was normal.
“Flight 361 never responded. Less than 10 seconds after rotation of the aircraft to climb away from the runway, the stall warning sounded in the cockpit and continued to the end of the recording. The flight data shows characteristics consistent with an aerodynamic stall”.
The disclosure was made yesterday by Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Usman Muktar at the AIB headquarters in Abuja where he released preliminary report of the crash, which left 15 people dead with five survivors.
The download and analysis of the blackbox were done for the first time in AIB’s newly built multi-billion naira accident laboratory in Abuja.
The report, according to Muktar, was determined from preliminary readout and analysis of flight 361 flight recorders, adding that the ill-fated plane was equipped with both a Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and a Flight Data Recorder (FDR).
The equipment, he said, were replayed at the AIB’s laboratory with assistance from experts from Canada who designed the laboratory; they assisted the investigation team with the readout and analysis, along with representatives from the aircraft manufacturers and the Associated Airlines .
According to the Muktar, “the crew discussed some concerns about the aircraft prior to departure but at this time, we are not prepared to elaborate on those concerns as there remains a lot of work to be done on the CVR analysis in order to determine the specific nature of the crew’s concerns”.
The AIB boss disclosed that physical examination of the wreckage revealed that the right engine propeller was in the feather position and the engine fire handle was pulled/activated.
Giving a vivid account of what led to the accident, he said, “The standard eighty knots call was made by the First Officer (co-pilot). The first evidence that the crew indicated that there was a problem with the take-off roll was immediately following the eighty knots’ call.”
According to the report made available to reporters, “The First Officer asked if the take-off should be aborted approximately 12 seconds after the eighty knots callout”.
The AIB’s investigation team estimates the speed to be approximately 95 knots, stressing that airspeed was one of the parameters that while working in the cockpit, appeared not to be working on the FDR.
“We were able to estimate the speed based on the radar data that we synchronized to the FDR and CVR but it is very approximate because of this,” Muktar said.
He, however, disclosed that investigation is focusing on other areas, which are mechanical and electronic engine control issues related to the right engine and right engine propeller systems, aural warnings related to auto-feather and the flap settings required for take-off, take-off configuration issues with respect to flap settings.
Others are crew decision making and training with respect to proceeding with the flight despite concerns regarding the aircraft suitability for flight, standard operating procedures with respect to continuing the take-off roll despite continuous automated voice warnings of both take-off flap and auto feather when there was ample time to abort the take-off and the airline management’s safety culture fostered throughout the airline.