Pilot in Nigerian Crash Said to Have Ignored Advice from Air Traffic Control

The Nigerian pilot of a plane that crashed on takeoff, killing him and 95 other people, did not heed air traffic controllers' advice to not depart in stormy weather, the minister of aviation said Monday.

Aviation Minister Babalola Borishade did not directly blame pilot error in Sunday's crash, the nation's third major jet accident in less than a year, but he said officials would try to curb pilots' power to ignore advice from the control tower.

Borishade said all of private Nigerian airline Aviation Development Co.'s planes had been grounded indefinitely and its flying license was suspended.

Nine people survived the crash.

Investigators found one of two black boxes from the Boeing 737 late Sunday. It was not immediately known whether it was the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder.

The airline last suffered a crash in November 1996, when one of its jets plunged into a lagoon outside Nigeria's main city, Lagos, killing all 143 aboard.

On Sunday, the jetliner was carrying 100 passengers and five crew when it went down just moments after taking off from Nigeria's capital.

"The pilot of the unfortunate accident refused to take advantage of the weather advice and the opinion of the (control) tower to exercise patience and allow the weather to clear for a safe takeoff," Borishade said at a news conference.

"The discretionary power of the air crew to override advice from the tower has been largely responsible for unfortunate consequences in the history of air mishaps in this country," Borishade said. "The federal government has directed the National Civil Aviation Authority to look into this and prepare appropriate guidelines to stop this reckless abuse of crew discretionary power ... to ensure safety."

The minister said conditions at the time included rain, gusty winds, thunder and lightning, and that controllers thought the weather would worsen.

"The air traffic controller re-emphasized the deteriorating weather condition and gave wind checks, which they (crew) acknowledged," he said.

Rowland Iyayi, head of the National Air Space Management Agency, said a Virgin Airlines flight that had been on the runway at about the same time as the ADC flight did not take off because of strong winds.

Among those confirmed dead was Nigeria's top Muslim leader, Muhammadu Maccido. Maccido was sultan of the northern state of Sokoto and headed the National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, which announces when Muslim fasts should begin and end, and decides issues of policy for Nigeria's overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims. About half of Nigeria's 130 million people are Muslims.

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Associated Press writer Dulue Mbachu, in Lagos, and Oloche Samuel, in Kano, contributed to this report.


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