What could have turned out to be a major national calamity was narrowly averted Friday evening as an Aero Contractor Airline Flight 180 from Lagos to Kaduna developed technical fault mid-air.
The aircraft with over 120 passengers aboard, was said to have suddenly lost altitude, 20 minutes after it departed the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, forcing the aircraft to wobble in the air for well over one hour before it was eventually diverted to Abuja.
One of the passengers on board the flight, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, a university don and director, Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, said that the flight took off from Lagos at exactly 6.30pm.
He said that, 20 minutes into the flight, the aircraft lost altitude and the passengers had to make use of the oxygen mask as the plane continued to wobble, while dropping steadily.
‘The plane lost altitude, 20 minutes after take off. No more oxygen and we had to make use of the oxygen mask. We saw smoke outside of the plane, probably coming from the engine compartment.
‘At this time, the whole plane was thrown into commotion. People screamed, some fainted. Prayers upon prayers were offered. Some shouted Allah, others Jesus,” he recounted.
Professor Akintola said that it was in the midst of the commotion, that the crew, whom he commended for their professionalism and unusual calmness announced that the plane would be diverted to Abuja.
‘While the pilot was making the announcement of the flight diversion, I noticed that his voice was trembling. He told us that Abuja was 120 miles away and that we would land in 25 minutes. But we were not sure we would make it.
“In fact, I quickly recited the Kalimah (The Quranic invocation of the oneness of Allah), believing that the end had come,” Prof. Akintola said, in a series of Blackberry messages to NEW MAIL NIGERIA.
He said that the plane finally touched down in Abuja at about 9.00pm and upon landing in Abuja, the officials of the airline told the devastated passengers that the fault would be hurriedly fixed and that the plane would proceed to take them to Kaduna, their original destination.
However, as at the time he spoke with NEW MAIL NIGERIA at about 9.30pm, he was already in a taxi taking him from Abuja to Kaduna as he could not risked been “flown in the same aircraft that was divinely saved from crashing.”
“As am talking to you, I am now in a taxi taking me to Kaduna. They said they wanted to repair the plane and that we should wait so it takes us to Kaduna. Allah forbid. They asked how many of us wanted to disembark and almost everybody came out,” he said.