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EAS pilot aborts flight mid-air

Posted by Oluyinka Akintunde and Musikilu Mojeed, Abuja on 2005/12/21 | Views: 921 |

EAS pilot aborts flight mid-air


Another air disaster was averted on Tuesday as an EAS aircraft on a scheduled flight from Abuja to Lagos developed engine problem mid-air.

Another air disaster was averted on Tuesday as an EAS aircraft on a scheduled flight from Abuja to Lagos developed engine problem mid-air.

The incident occurred less than 36 hours after a Bellview plane crash-landed in Accra, Ghana, en-route Sierra Leone.

The EAS pilot successfully manoeuvred the plane to land, returning over 100 passengers on board to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Sources confirmed to our correspondents that the aircraft, which had on board a Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede; and the Publisher and Editor-In-Chief of The Source, Ms. Comfort Obi, returned to the airport barely 20 minutes after it took off at 4.30pm.

When contacted on phone by our correspondents, Oloyede, who was the co-secretary of the National Political Reform Conference, said the aircraft engine developed problem 20 minutes into the journey.

He said, “Twenty minutes after take-off, the engine of the plane began to malfunction, and the crew announced that there was an emergency and the flight would have to be aborted.

“The problem started when the cabin crew was about serving snacks to the passengers. A member of the cabin crew who was aware of the development signalled to another colleague at the rear of the aircraft, asking that the activity be suspended, but that we should not panic.

“The pilot battled frantically to return the plane to the Abuja airport where it took off. The passengers were panicky. It was clear that the plane could not soar any more.”

Our correspondents gathered that the aircraft initially found it difficult to land in Abuja, but eventually landed after hovering for 10 minutes.

At the time of landing, fire fighters and other emergency workers, including officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, had already taken positions at strategic points along the runway of the airport.

The passengers were relieved when the plane touched down on the tarmac in Abuja airport, with many offering praises to God.

When the plane landed, some of the passengers reportedly did not bother to collect a refund on their tickets, saying they were thankful to God for sparing their lives. Some of them decided to shelve their trip to Lagos.

The airline refunded the airfare of other passengers.

Asked what the problem was, Oloyede, who also aborted his Lagos trip and returned to Ilorin, said, “The pilot told passengers that it was the fuel filter of the plane that malfunctioned.”

He called on the Federal Government to take firm action over the spate of air crashes and near mishaps in the country.

Efforts to speak to officials of NCAA and FAAN proved abortive as they switched off their cell phones.

When contacted, however, the airline’s Marketing Manager, Mr. Akin Durojaiye, confirmed that the aircraft made air return to Abuja.

According to him, the pilot decided to return to Abuja when he discovered a fault in the engine. But Durojaiye failed to explain the nature of the problem, saying, it was the airline’s engineers that were capable of doing that.

In Accra on Monday, the wife of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Mariam Ali, was among the over 62 passengers that escaped death when another Bellview plane crash was averted.

Bellview Airlines Flight 210 crashed at Lisa, Ogun State, on October 22, 2005, killing all the 117 people on board. Another plane also crashed in Kaduna on November 28, resulting in the death of the two crew members.

A Sosoliso aircraft, carrying over 110 passengers, including more than 60 students of the Loyola Jesuit College, crashed in Port Harcourt on December 10, 2005.

The Minister of Aviation, Dr. Babalola Borishade, on Tuesday, said the non-performance of the former chiefs of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency and the NCAA informed their removal.

Shedding light on the removal on Monday of Mr. Emperor Onasanya as Managing Director, NAMA; and Mr. Fidelis Onyeyiri as Director-General, NCAA, Borishade said the officials displayed lack of commitment to duty in the last five months.

According to him, “I personally instructed NAMA that the problem with the radar being switched off on Fridays for maintenance was because of overloading, and this is because there is need for a three-kilometre cable to link the radar to the terminal building. How long does it take a chief executive to lay a three-kilometre cable?

“I personally brought people who volunteered to do it, people who installed the facilities in this airport.

“They came to Mr. President and I brought them to meet with the chief executive of NAMA. I said, ‘these are people who know the problem and I said, discuss with them and do the work.’ The proposal is still lying somewhere on the shelf. How long are Nigerians prepared to wait for this kind of attitude?”

Borishade spoke at a press conference at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.

He explained that when he assumed office five months ago, he inaugurated a rapid progress development committee, which dew up projects that needed to be done by the parastatals.

But, according to him, they have failed to implement any of these projects.

The minister threatened to withdraw the operating licence of any airline that failed to compensate victims of the recent crashes.

He said although the agreement between the airlines and passengers was private, the International Civil Aviation Organisation rules make provision for such compensation.

Meanwhile, Bellview airlines said it would cooperate fully with the authorities in resolving issues concerning the grounding of its operations.

The Federal Government revoked the airline’s Air Operator’s Certificate on Monday, following the incident in Ghana.

The Chairman of the presidential taskforce on verification of airworthiness, Mrs. Folashade Odutola, in a statement, said the airline would be required to undergo a re-certification.

Addressing a news conference on Tuesday, the Head, Corporate Affairs of the airline, Mr. Habib Mohammed, said the airline shared in the responsibility of air safety and would cooperate with the authorities.

The PUNCH, Wednesday, December 21, 2005

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