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Another air tragedy averted

Posted by Rotimi Williams and Akin Olukunle on 2006/01/22 | Views: 2542 |

Another air tragedy averted


Another air disaster was on Saturday averted, as a Virgin Nigeria aircraft developed a technical problem mid-air, 23 minutes after it took off from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos.

Another air disaster was on Saturday averted, as a Virgin Nigeria aircraft developed a technical problem mid-air, 23 minutes after it took off from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos.

The aircraft, which had 92 passengers on board and with registration number UK071, was heading to Portharcourt, Rivers State, when it developed an air-conditioning problem and had to make a return to the airport.

One of the officials of the airline, who pleaded anonymity told Sunday Punch that "the technical problem led to a total blackout in the plane. It also affected the air-conditioning system."

He said many of the passengers were already sweating by the time the A320-200 aircraft returned to the airport. It was learnt that the passengers were very hysterical, as they launched into vigorous prayers, for divine intervention to avert the perceived disaster.

When the plane eventually touched the tarmac, some of the passengers, numbering about 31 were so traumatised that they refused to travel again. Others were, however, said to have been merged with those on board of another of the aircraft of the airline. The aircraft eventually left the MMIA at about 12.55 p.m.

Commenting on the development, the Corporate Affairs Manager of the airline, Mrs. Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, said the aircraft was fixed immediately it landed and that it left for Portharcourt almost immediately.

She added that the aircraft had since left for London.

A statement signed by the management of the airline explained, "Both the first and second flights were subsequently merged, with 107 passengers on board. The plane, which left Lagos at 12.55 hours, arrived Portharcourt safely at 13.45 hours."

In the last quarter of last year, Nigeria witnessed three different air disasters that claimed the lives of hundreds of people including those of school children who were returning home for the Christmas holiday.

The crash happened on a hot afternoon on December 10 in the city of Portharcourt, leaving 107 dead including the school children. On November 28, 2005, a Beech craft 200 executive jet crashed in the northern city of Kaduna killing two occupants. The first of the air disaster in the out-gone year happened on October 22 2005 when a Boeing 737-200 aircraft belonging to Bellview Airlines crashed in Lisa village, 40 kilometres northwest of Lagos barely three minutes after take off from Lagos en-route Abuja. All the 117 passengers and crewmembers on board died in the crash.

Before the Bellview crash in 2005, a Ugandan-registered cargo aircraft belonging to Almiron Aviation overshot the runaway at Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos. There were no casualities.

On July 23, 2005 a Lufthansa aircraft crash-landed at the Lagos airport and was badly damaged, but no life was lost.

On July 23, 2005, an Air France A330 rammed into a herd of cattle at the Portharcourt airport sustaining serious damage and killing many of the cows.

On June 12 of the same year, a Boeing 727-200 aircraft belonging to the domestic Chachangi Airlines also overshot the runway at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, while yet another overshot the runway at the airport in Jos, Platueu State a day earlier.

Available statistics indicate that at least 932 people have been killed in plane crashes between 1969 and 2005. The first crash in the country was recorded on November 20, 1969, when a government-owned DC-10 aircraft on a flight from London crash landed in Lagos and killed all the 87 passengers and crew on board.

SUNDAY PUNCH, January 22, 2006

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