…narrate turbulent take-off
By SIMON EBEGBULEM (Benin-city) & daniel etagbe (Lagos)
What desperation could have led a teenager to ‘ride’ in the main wheel of an aircraft from Benin-City, the capital of Edo State, to Lagos?
That was the question on aviation stakeholders’ lips after an Arik Air’s flight from Benin-City landed at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, yesterday, and a young boy jumped out of the main wheel.
The boy was promptly arrested by the security personnel of Arik Air and handed over to their counterpart in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
The boy was suspected to have sneaked into the aircraft’s mail wheel at the Benin-City airport.
One intriguing aspect of the saga was the claim by Arik Air that the pilot that flew the aircraft reported to the control tower in Benin-City moments before take-off that he noticed a boy in the bush about 200 – 300 meters at the end of runway.
Arik Air quoted the control tower as telling the Captain that they were sending security men to arrest the boy and cleared him for take-off.
The passengers on the flight told Sunday Vanguard that they heard a loud noise as if tyres crushed somebody on the ground as the plane took off from the Benin-City airport.
Arik Air managing director, Mr. Chris Ndulue, described the incident as security breach.
Expressing shock over the teenager’s beating of security at the Benin-City airport, Ndulue said, “We are worried by the incessant security lapses at our airports. We are appealing to FAAN to immediately address the problem”. Narrating the stowaway incident, yesterday, in a statement, Communication Manager of Arik Air, Mr. Adebanji Ola, said the teenager sneaked into the aircraft main wheel of Flight W3 544, departing Benin-City airport for Lagos at 9.00am.
According to Ola, “the pilot of the aircraft notified the control tower when he noticed the presence of a strange boy in the bush about 200 – 300 meters at the end of runway 23.”
He stated that the “control tower informed the Captain that they were sending security men to the place to arrest the boy, adding that the pilot was told he had been cleared for take-off as the situation was under control.”
The statement went on: “As the captain was making his final turn, preparatory for take-off, a cabin crew called his attention to the information by some of the passengers that they saw a boy running towards the airplane.
“The First Officer confirmed that they had observed it earlier and alerted the control tower which responded that they have sent the patrol team to arrest the boy.
“The Captain again reported to the control tower and was informed that the situation was under control and that he had been cleared for take-off.”
Meanwhile, sources in Benin-City said the boy may have entered the airport through Akenzua Road due to lack of perimeter fencing there. Some top officials of Edo State government were said to be on board the plane. One of the passengers reported unusual take-off.
He narrated: “We had the sign in Benin-City when the plane was about leaving. As it was moving slowly, we heard a loud noise as if the tyre crushed somebody on the ground and we all started shouting ‘Jesus, Jesus’. It means the boy was already inside that tyre compartment before we left.
“When we landed at Lagos Airport, the boy came out from the mail wheel, everybody started shouting. But talking seriously, this shows that we have a serious problem securing our airports.
This is security breach. If that boy was carrying bomb, he could have succeeded in blowing up the plane,”the passenger said.