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June 07, 2012

Nigerian Airline Defends Fleet Safety After Crash

by VOA News

A Nigerian airline is defending the safety of its aircraft after one of its planes crashed on approach to Lagos, the country's largest city, killing all 153 people on board, including the airline's chief engineer.

Francis Ogboro, an executive of Dana Airlines, told reporters Wednesday that the engineer would not have allowed the MD-83 to take off from Abuja Sunday if there had been a problem.  He said the planes are properly maintained and that "no airline crew would go on a suicide mission."  

Most of the passengers were Nigerian, but the United States says nine Americans were on the plane.  In addition, citizens of Britain, Canada, China, France, India and Lebanon were reported to have been on board.  A spokesman for Lloyds of London, the insurer of Dana Airlines, said Wednesday there will be compensation for families of the victims.  

Authorities also say at least six others on the ground were killed when the plane plowed into a Lagos residential neighborhood nine kilometers from the airport.  Several houses were damaged.

Search crews have recovered the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders which may shed light on the cause of the crash.  Aviation officials say the pilot reported dual engine trouble as he prepared to land.  The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is assisting in the investigation.

Local news and bloggers reported Tuesday that the airline's senior managers of Indian nationality have fled the country as Nigerian aviation officials investigate the cause of the crash.  Leadership news alleged that the management knew the equipment on the plane was faulty.  It also said residents at the crash site have complained about an odor emanating from the wreckage and cited health concerns of those who inhaled it.

The deadly crash is renewing concerns about aviation safety in Nigeria and the rest of West Africa.  Authorities say the airline's license to fly has been suspended indefinitely.

Dana Airlines is a domestic air carrier that operates a fleet of Boeing MD-83 aircraft for the hour-long flight from Abuja to Lagos.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.