Army Chiefs Jittery Over Recent Military Plane Crashes

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…Aircraft that killed Chief of Army Staff second to crash in fleet of 4

 

…two crashes in less than 3 months

…at least 20 killed as fear grips military

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It has been revealed that the aircraft that crashed, killing the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru is the second in a fleet of four aircraft registered at same time to crash within a space of less than three months.

The Chief of Army Staff died in a crashed King Air 350 aircraft, the same variant of aircraft that crashed in February, killing all seven Nigerian Air Force (NAF) officers on board.

The crash of the King Air 350 military aircraft that killed the Chief of Army Staff, and ten other persons has sent fear over the Nigerian military of possible fatal crashes occurring in the near future.

The names of those who died along with the Chief of Army Staff were given as Brig Gen MI Abdulkadir, Brig Gen Olayinka, Brig Gen Kuliya, Major LA Hayat, Major Hamza, Sgt Umar.

Others are pilot FLT LT Taiwo Olufemi Asaniyi, who is said to have plans to marry in a few weeks; co-pilot Flt. Lt Alfred Olufade, who had his wedding two months ago, and also Sergeant Adesina and ACM Oyedepo, among the crew.

With the development, at least 20 military officers have lost their lives in the last three months in three crashes involving Nigerian military jets.

Recall that in February, NAF confirmed the crash of a Beechcraft King Air 350 military aircraft, the same variant of aircraft that crashed killing Attahiru and the 10 others on Friday

The February incident occurred while the Beechcraft King Air 350 military aircraft was returning to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, after reporting engine failure enroute Minna.

The aircraft departed Abuja on a Sunday, in the morning, before it crashed, killing all the persons on board.

According to the Twitter handle of Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, the aircraft reported engine failure at 10.39 a.m. and crashed landed on the final approach path of Abuja Runway 2.

All the seven personnel on board died in the crash, and the then Chief of Air Staff, AVM Oladayo Amao directed an immediate investigation into the incident, but the outcome of the investigation was yet to be made public.

The victims included: Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama (Captain), Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo (Co-Pilot), Flying Officer Micheal Okpara (Airborne Tactical Observation System (ATOS) Specialist) and Warrant Officer Bassey Etim (ATOS Specialist).

Others were: Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi (ATOS Specialist), Sergeant Ugochukwu Oluka (ATOS Specialist), and Aircraftman Adewale Johnson (Onboard Technician).

Also, in March, NAF spokesman, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, said an Alpha-Jet aircraft involved in the anti-terror war against Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province lost radar contact in Borno State.

Two officers were onboard the missing jet which was later declared crashed and the whereabouts of the two airmen unknown till date.

The King Air 350 military aircraft

There are different variants of the King Air 350 aircraft designed and manufactured by Beechcraft Augsburg, a subsidiary of Textron Aviation.

The King Air 350 aircraft was first manufactured by Beecrhcraft Aviation in 1963, and expanded in 2008 for multi-civility purposes.

The multi-mission King Air 350ER aircraft is a derivative of King Air 350 and it is the most preferred because it is designed to fly a unique mission profile as it incorporates advanced technology and a unique and flexible mission package.

The 350ER has a maximum takeoff weight of 16,500 pounds, 1,500 pounds higher than the standard King Air 350.

That extra takeoff weight allows the 350ER to pack on another 1,581 pounds of fuel for a total capacity of 5,192 pounds.

The King Air 350ER aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PT6A-60A engines, which each generate 1,050hp.

The aircraft can fly at a maximum cruise speed of 578km/h, offers a maximum range of 4,361km and has a service ceiling of 10.66m.

It has an overall length of 14.22m, height of 4.37m and wing span of 17.65m. It has a maximum ramp weight of 7,530kg, take-off / landing weight of 7,484kg and maximum zero fuel weight of 7,110kg.

It can carry a maximum payload of 1,361kg and useful load of 2,903kg. The maximum fuel capacity is 2,355kg.

The King Air 350ER features spacious cabin that offers superior comfort and convenience.

The cabin is 5.94m long, 1.45m high and 1.37m wide. It can accommodate two crew and up to eleven passengers. It can be optionally fitted with two additional fold up seats.

The 350ER is developed to perform a range of special missions for the military and law enforcement authorities.

The aircraft can be deployed to conduct search and rescue, intelligence, reconnaissance, target acquisition, military transport/utility, aerial patrol, fishery inspection, training, pollution monitoring, seaway/shipping lane surveillance, law enforcement, air ambulance missions and other special operations.

The standard price of a 350ER is about $7.2 million, which is about $1 million more than the standard King Air 350. The empty weight of the 350ER is higher than the regular 350, but the engines and wings are the same.

An obvious special mission for an airplane with such fuel capacity is observation where loitering aloft with a big load of sensors is the goal. The 350ER can easily stay on station for more than 12 hours.

Another reason people want a 350ER is to reach destinations where fuel supply is not available. The big turboprop can fly into rugged, out of the way runways to deliver or pickup people or cargo and have enough fuel to make the return trip.

So, what is going wrong?

With the death of the Chief of Army Staff on Friday and the death of seven naval officers in February, this is the second time two Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft in a fleet of four, acquired by the federal government of Nigeria, will crash.

While many have asked why the aircraft keeps crashing, till date, the investigation directed by the former Chief of Air Staff on the crash of the Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft in February was yet to be made public.

Beechcraft, maker of the King Air 350 had touted the special mission military aircraft as very reliable, and no words from the manufacturer of any defects, but there is apprehension in the air.

Beechcraft received a contract from the Iraqi Air Force to deliver five King Air 350ER aircraft for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, in March 2007.

In November 2008, the US Air Force (USAF) awarded a $171m order to Beechcraft for 23 King Air 350ER aircraft.

In early 2014, the Mexican Navy Secretaría de Marina (SEMAR) signed a contract with Beechcraft for the delivery of four aircrafts.

The aircraft is also in service with the US Marine Corps.

Nigeria has four of that aircraft, two that have crashed fatally, but what is going wrong is not known.

The four Beechcraft King Air 350 owned by the Nigerian military are tagged NAF201, NAF202, NAF203 and NAF204.

In February, NAF201 crashed in Abuja and killed all seven Airforce men on board as reported. Now, NAF203 has crashed, killing everyone onboard, including Attahiru, the Chief of Army Staff.

Presently, there is fear in the military with the remaining aircraft, NAF202 and NAF204. Many have said it is time to ground NAF202 and NAF204 to avoid further fatal crashes from the fleet.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor has directed that an Accident Investigation Board be constituted to unravel the immediate and remote cause(s) of the unfortunate accident.