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Dangote escapes plane crash

Posted by By Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe on 2008/04/05 | Views: 4934 |

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Dangote escapes plane crash


But for divine intervention, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Nigeria’s globally-acclaimed billionaire listed by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s richest men, would have been involved in a fatal plane crash.

But for divine intervention, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Nigeria’s globally-acclaimed billionaire listed by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s richest men, would have been involved in a fatal plane crash.

The billionaire was returning to Nigeria from a business trip to South Africa when his private jet developed an engine problem across the skies of Angola.
One of the engines shut off when the plane was at over 40,000 feet above sea level.

In an exclusive interview with the SATURDAY SUN, Alhaji Dangote painted a scary picture of a plane vibrating dangerously in the Angolan sky, as the crew struggled for an emergency landing at such a high altitude, using one engine.

"The plane was coming from South Africa," he narrated. "The engine problem developed about 138 miles away from Luanda, because we were passing Luanda to come to Nigeria.
"The plane was vibrating. It was terrible. It was a very bad experience. The pilot was calm. We were all calm."

Asked what was going through his mind during the traumatic moment, Dangote replied: "What can you do other than to pray? In such a situation you have nothing to do than to pray and you think of your family."

Dangote believes it was the prayers that saved him and his co-travellers as the pilot miraculously controlled the plane and made an emergency return landing at the airport in Luanda.
But that was when Dangote realised how close to death he was because barely two minutes after their emergency landing, the in-built generator of the second engine also packed up. If that had happened two minutes before landing, the entire three passengers would have perished.
Waxing philosophical, Dangote said: "Death can come any time. Even if you are in your bedroom, once it is your time to go, you will go."
Luckily, it wasn’t Dangote’s time to go. Like a cat with nine lives, the billionaire has cheated death thrice in the sky.

Excluding this latest near-plane crash, Dangote reveals: "I have experienced plane crash twice. We had one in London in January or March 1983. We landed at the end of the runway. Everybody escaped, apart from the co-pilot.
"The co-pilot got paralysed. That was actually my first aircraft. We had a crash-landing and the plane got burnt actually. But we all escaped. Nine of us escaped.
"According to aviation experts we were very lucky because it was one of the bad accidents that people hardly escaped from.

"The second plane crash involved Hamzair, when they newly started operation. It was the first flight in Kano. And ironically it was their last one."
In spite of the hazards of flying, Dangote who has to fly all the time in search of business says he cannot afford to develop a phobia for flying.

"As a businessman, if you put a lot of fear inside you, then you won’t be able to transact any business," he says. "In modern day business, you have to travel quite extensively."
A week before the near-plane crash, he had come to Angola to transact business before heading for South Africa, but he was given only one-way visa to Angola.
You would expect the authorities in Angola to be sympathetic to a billionaire who had just survived a near-plane crash. But they kept him for 36 hours.

He explains: "The visa had expired and we needed to reapply for a fresh visa. They are very crazy with their visas. We went in and they held our passports and we had to go and look for another aircraft to come and carry us. And that took almost 36 hours."
If you ask him, lucky Alhaji Dangote would definitely agree that 36 hours in Luanda is far better than a long journey into eternity where no one returns. His next birthday is April 10.

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