Crashed Lagos Helicopter Had Empty Fuel Tank – Report Says

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A helicopter that crashed into a Lagos residence on August 28, killing three crew members, had no fuel left in its tank, a preliminary report says.

The report by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) said the helicopter had no capacity to jettison fuel but the actual causes of the crash would be revealed in a final report.

The crashed involved a Bell 206B Helicopter with nationality and registration marks 5N-BQW operated by Quorum Aviation Limited (QAL) on Salvation Road, Opebi, Lagos.

Three crew members were alone on board the flight which took off from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The preliminary report on Monday also revealed that the medical certificate of the pilot was valid till 6th August, 2020 and there was no evidence to show that an application for the exemption provided by the All Operators’ Letter AOL DG020/20 had been submitted to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

But the airline has queried the AIB’s claims on the validity of the medical certificate and proficiency.

The AIB report further revealed that there was no fuel left in the fuel tanks after the crash even after the helicopter was topped to full tank capacity on 27th August, 2020 at Port Harcourt.

The report read:

“On 27th August 2020, a Bell 206B III helicopter with nationality and registration marks 5N-BQW, operated by Quorum Aviation Limited, was topped up with 247 litres of fuel to full tank capacity on ground Port Harcourt Military airport (DNPM). The technical logbook entry revealed that there was an engine run for 10 minutes and a test flight of 20 minutes in preparation for a positioning flight the next day.

“The helicopter was topped to full tank capacity on 27th August, 2020. After refueling, 10 minutes of engine run and 20 minutes of test flight were carried out on 27th August, 2020 at Port Harcourt. The helicopter was fitted with a range-extender fuel system. No fuel jettisoning capability on this helicopter.

“The helicopter has an endurance of 3:24h. The operational flight plan filed by the pilot indicated an endurance of 3:15h and an estimated flight time of 2:45h. The helicopter engine was started at 09:15h. The helicopter took off at 09:20h.The helicopter crashed at 12:14h.There was no fuel left in the fuel tanks after the crash. The mast and main rotor blades were found intact during the post-crash inspection.”

On the aircraft, the preliminary report pointed out that the helicopter had a valid Certificate of Airworthiness till 29th October 2020.

Also, the engineer on board had an Aircraft Maintenance Engineers’ License Validity till 14th February, 2022 and Aircraft Ratings: Category A&C Agusta/Bell 206, Bell 212, Sikorsky S76, Eurocopter EC 155 helicopters.

The report also indicated several communications between the chopper and Lagos Tower the contact was lost while the Tower tried to enquire from nearby hangars.

The report added: “At 12:18 h, Tower contacted OAS, another helicopter operator located at Maryland to know whether 5N-BQW had diverted to its helipad. No clear information was gotten.

“At 12:21 h, Tower contacted Caverton Helicopters and EAN Aviation to find out if either of them was the operator of 5N-BQW and to know if they had any information that might assist Tower to know of it’s whereabouts. Both companies reported that 5N-BQW was not their helicopter. EAN representative later called to inform Tower that 5N-BQW was expected to pick up passengers from their Hangar.

“At 12:36 h, Aerodrome Rescue and Fire Fighting Service (ARFFS) notified Tower of a reported helicopter crash on a residential building at Opebi. The accident occurred at 12:14 h in daylight in Visual Meteorological Conditions.”

Meanwhile, Managing Director of Quorum Aviation Limited, Abiola Lawal explained that seven days to the expiration of the pilot’s proficiency, the company wrote a letter to the Director-General of NCAA on the 18th August, 2020 requesting the extension and exemption.

Lawal states that the letter was written based on the exemption document by the NCAA to all Nigerian operators Ref: NCAA/DOT/GEN012/20/002.

The letter read:

“Given the challenges of the Covid-19 in organizing additional crew travel and training, we hereby wish to request for the exemption/extension of our pilots Captain Chika Prudence Ernest License ATPL(H) 6245 under the above exemption granted by the DG in the above reference circular.

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