By Kenneth Ehigiator
LAGOSâ€”A MAJOR air disaster was averted, yesterday, at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, when an Abuja-bound Dana Air plane with 97 persons on board lost an engine to bird strike on take-off.
Trouble started for flight 9J995 at about 9:20am when on take-off on runway 18L of the airport, the aircraftâ€™s left engine was hit by a bird, which caused a deafening bang that changed the running of the engine.
The unusual engine sound of the MD-83 aircraft forced people out of their offices, and the airportâ€™s neighbours at Mafoluku out of their homes.
The birdâ€™s attack caused a drag to the plane as it could hardly climb, but the pilot could not abort take-off because he had reached a point of no return.
The twin-engine aircraft managed to take-off eventually, with the ill-fated engine emitting big balls of fire and exploding at about 5,000ft above sea level.
The aircraft, however, managed to climb after the three mid-air explosions. Fire trucks of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, were immediately mobilized in anticipation of an emergency landing.
For almost 25 minutes, peopleâ€™s apprehensions heightened, especially after the aircraft was expected to have returned to base before then, since it would be ill-advisable for the pilot to continue the flight to Abuja on one engine.
At exactly 9:45am, the pilot managed to bring the aircraft down on runway 18R, used for international operations, and was escorted by fire tenders to the tarmac at the new domestic terminal, MMA2, of the airport.
After taxiing to a stop, the passengers were promptly evacuated into another Dana Air plane for continuation of their journey.
Some passengers, however, opted out of the flight and requested for refunds.
Most of the passengers looked awe-stricken and kept thanking God for surviving what could have been a fatal crash. They appeared fagged out, though they had flown for just 25 minutes.
One of the passengers who managed to speak told Vanguard: â€œI felt many things while the trouble lasted; I am just on my way home. My wife warned me not to travel today, but I didnâ€™t listen.â€
Reacting to the development, Dana Air said in a statement: â€œDana Air flight 9J995, en route Abuja from Lagos, suffered a bird strike shortly after take-off and, in line with the airlineâ€™s safety and service policy, the captain made an emergency landing at MMIA, Lagos.
â€œAll 97 passengers and crew disembarked the aircraft safely, and the aircraft was taken to the hangar. Most of the passengers were booked on alternative Dana Air flight to Abuja, while a few who preferred a refund were given.â€