By Kenneth Ehigiator
A former Transport Minister, Chief Ebenezer Babatope and Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, owner of the defunct Okada Airlines, were among passengers who narrowly escaped death, yesterday, as their Aerocontractorsâ€™ flight flew into a very bad weather on approach to land at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.
Also on board the flight was Professor Olu Aina, who was said to be travelling to Ghana for an educational conference.
Vanguard gathered the plane, a Boeing 737, took off at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, for Lagos at 7:30 a.m, and was expected to land at 8:30am, but could not.
The pilot of the aircraft was said to have made seven attempts to bring down the aircraft but was impeded by the bad weather.
A source told Vanguard that some passengers wept profusely as the pilot battled storming wind to land the aircraft.
The pilot was said to have called for emergency landing, prompting the activation of fire tenders at the airport to prepare for the worst.
According to the source, the pilot, after hovering for close to an hour in the skies, eventually made forced landing at 9:30 a.m.
Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren, could neither confirm nor deny the incident.
One of the passengers, Babatope, narrated his ordeal: â€œ What happened yesterday will shake anybodyâ€™s confidence about flying in this country. I have never seen that kind of thing in my life.Â The plane was parked full and everybody was crying and praying.”
â€œWhen we took off in Abuja, the pilot told us the flight would take 50 minutes and that the weather in Lagos was good.Â But as soon as we were descending to land the Lagos, the weather changed and the pilot made several attempts to land, but he couldnâ€™t.Â For a 50-minute flight, I discovered we were two hours in the air, that was when the apprehensions of passengers started. Air planes are made to fly in bad weather, but what happened yesterday is better imagined.â€
Besides human error, bad weather had been identified as the second most important cause of air crashes across the world.
The latest air crash in Russia which killed Polish President, Lech Kazhinsky, and his wife and scores of other senior government officials, was blamed on inclement weather.
The Tupolev plane reportedly crashed into trees while trying to land amidst bad weather.