© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Five scares in four weeks — are these the signs of imminent plane crash?
In less than one month — between January 25 and February 21, 2018 — Nigeria has been lucky not to have recorded a major aviation disaster.
From the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, to the Port Harcout Airport, it has been scary news — of aircraft exit door removing or a plane crashing-landing.
Is the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) taking adequate measures to prevent any major air disaster in the country now and in the future? Here are five incidents that give us cause to worry.
NESTOIL PRIVATE JET CRASH-LANDED IN ABUJA
Flight operations were disrupted on January 25 at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, when a Gulfstream G200 private jet with registration number 5N-BTF operated by Nest Oil skidded off the runway on landing at the airport.
Aircrafts scheduled to land at the airport at about 2pm when the incident happened, hovered in the air for almost an hour while others had to land at the nearest airport. Many of the aircraft went to Kaduna while some coming from Lagos returned to Lagos until evening when the broken-down private jet was evacuated.
Passengers scheduled to depart the airport for others could not leave, as airlines could not depart from the airport to other cities.
The pilot, after realizing that the landing gear was not operational, landed the aircraft with a broken landing gear, which severed from the aircraft upon landing.
There was no casualty among the seven people on board — four passengers and three crew members — when the aircraft landed on its belly.
The incident was confirmed by Henrietta Yakubu, General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Airport authority, including Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for Aviation, said the airport would be shut down for about 30 minutes after the incident. It took more than hour before diverted flights could land.
DANA AIR PLANE’S EMERGENCY DOOR FELL OFF
About two weeks after the Abuja airport incident, passengers aboard a Dana Air plane were terrified when one of its emergency exit doors fell off as it landed in Abuja airport.
The flight was 6.48am from Lagos to Abuja. It was on February 9.
Passengers who were in the plane said the door had been “unstable throughout the flight.” Others said they noticed that the emergency exit was not properly latched before takeoff in Lagos.
“I was one foot away from the emergency exit door, so I could see the handle was popping out,” said Igah Dagogo, a passenger aboard the plane. “We informed one of the air hostesses who insisted that it was locked.”
Dagogo said the plane had just taxied on the runway when the door came unhinged and almost hit a passenger.
“We were in the process of landing; that was when the door just opened. The white man by the door had to shift because the door would have hit him. When he shifted, the door now fell on the floor of the plane.
“Maybe it was breeze, but the door came off completely and the passengers came to check and began shouting and taking photos. I wonder what would have happened if the door fell off mid-air.”
Dagogo said crew members tried to calm passengers’ nerves and one of them complained to the pilot who said he should have been informed before takeoff.
Dana Airlines responded to the reports with a statement arguing that the door must have been tampered with by a passenger.
“We wish to state categorically that this could never have happened without a conscious effort by a passenger to open it,” it said.
The airline also said when the aircraft is airborne, the seat or door could not be “shaking” as Brown had said because it is “fully pressurized”.
“A thorough inspection was however carried out on the said aircraft upon landing in Abuja by our engineers and a team from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and no issue was reported. There was also no threat to safety at any point.”
COWS OVERRUN AKURE AIRPORT
On February 17, exactly eight days after the Dana Air incident, a herd of cows took over the runway at Akure Airport, preventing an Air Peace flight from Lagos from landing.
Witnesses said it took the efforts of airport security and other aviation staff to clear the runway.
The pilot was said to have contemplated returning to Lagos before he was eventually cleared to land.
Chris Iwarah, Corporate Communications Manager of Air Peace confirmed the incident, saying the control tower told the pilot to hold on because cows were on the runway of the airport.
He said the flight held for about seven minutes, noting that they also called the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria’s aviation security department to clear the runway, which was done.
“The aircraft landed safely without any incident and passengers were duly informed about the situation while they were still hovering waiting for instruction to land.”
He added that when the aircraft was also about to return to Lagos at about 1:02pm, the pilot was advised to hold on to confirm if there were cows on the runway.
Henrietta Yakubu, General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, apologised to Air Peace and the affected passengers for the runway incursion.
“The authority will like to assure travellers and the general public that efforts are already ongoing to close the gap that aided the incident,” Yakubu said.
DANA AIRCRAFT OVERSHOOTS RUNWAY IN PORT HARCOURT
Close to six years after one of its Boeing aircraft slammed into a two-storeyed residential building in a densely-populated neighborhood of Lagos, killing a total of 153 on board, including cabin crew and 10 others on ground, a similar disaster was averted on Tuesday, February 20, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Its aircraft with registration number 5N-SRI flying from Lagos to Port Harcourt overshot the runway and ended up in the bush in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
It was said that the mishap might have been due to a downpour witnessed on Tuesday in Port Harcourt.
“A Dana aircraft numbered 9J0363, flying from Abuja to the Port Harcourt airport, has overshot the Port Harcourt runway,” said Yakubu in a statement after the incident.
“The incident was suspected to have been caused by heavy rainfall, which was accompanied by strong wind and storm in Port Harcourt. No casualty was recorded, as all passengers on board were safely evacuated.”
LUFTHANSA AIRLINE PLANE, FROM 35,000 FEET TO 5,000 FEET MIDAIR
Passengers aboard a Lufthansa airline from Abuja to Frankfurt, Germany, were thrown into panic on Sunday, February 18, 2018 when the plane suddenly came down from 35,000 feet to about 5,000 feet midair, an hour after takeoff in Abuja.
Though the airline said no passenger was injured in the incident, in which many fell down due its sudden occurrence, a passenger who did not mention his name said some were injured in the process.
A statement by Hakeem Jimo, the airline’s Spokesperson in Nigeria, summed up the incident as mere “moderate turbulence”.
But Jimo said safety on the aircraft was never compromised, as passengers had their seat belts intact at the time of the incident.
“We can confirm that on flight LH595 last Sunday (18 FEB) from Abuja to Frankfurt, a brief weather-related turbulence was experienced,” he said.
“The Airbus A330 aircraft took off in Abuja at 23:13 with 197 passengers on board and landed at 5:17 in Frankfurt as planned (all times local). After take-off in Abuja, there was moderate turbulence during the ascent for a few seconds due to bad weather.
“At that time, since the seat-belt signs were still on, all guests and the crew members were safely seated with their seatbelts fastened. Safety on board was never compromised. No passengers or crew members were injured. The flight continued normally.”