Barely 36 hours after a plane crashed in Lagos, killing 13 persons, tragedy was averted, on Friday night, in Sokoto, after an aircraft with 494 intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and 18 crew members on board, lost two tyres while landing.
The technical crew of Kabo Air plane saved the day as it confronted the emergency and taxied to a halt.
The flight, which originated from Kano, was said to be at the Abubakar Sadiq III International Airport, Sokoto, to pick some high profile passengers before heading to Saudi Arabia.
The incident happened just as a Benin-City bound aircraft could not land and had to return to Abuja.
The plane reportedly stayed in the air for two hours for the 30-minute Abuja-Benin flight and then returned to Abuja.
Heavy rains in Benin-City were blamed for the inability of the pilot to land the plane at the Edo State capital.
The Sokoto incident was said to have thrown the plane passengers, airport workers and security agents into panic.
One source said the tyres were hit by a sharp object on the runway as the plane touched down.
The Kabo plane was immediately ground at the airport by regulatory agencies pending investigation and determination of what caused the tyre blowout.
Meanwhile, the management of Kabo Air, yesterday, dismissed the claim that “its aircraft made an emergency landing in Kano”, adding that “what happened was that our aircraft lost its two rear tyres while landing in Sokoto”.
The Corporate Affair Manager , Kabo Air, Aminu Hamza, who described as “laughable an online report that depicts an air mishap, said: “How can an aircraft that was airborne lose its tyres?” According to him, it was a ridiculous and mischievous news peddled by unpatriotic elements to paint the aviation industry blac.
Narrating the incident, Hamza said, “About 494 passengers were on board during the incident, and it was a tripartite journey that took off from Kano en-route Sokoto to Jeddah. We are happy to announce that none of them was injured”.
The Corporate Affairs Manager disclosed that “ we have since sent a rescue aircraft from our fleet to convey the passengers to their destination, adding that “ from reports at our disposal, everything is going on as planned”.
Shedding more light on the landing mishap, the Director of Flight Operations of Kabo Air, Mr. Joseph Machimu, noted that “the aircraft just returned from maintenance in Malaysia”. According to him, the aircraft air worthiness is not in question.
Machimu explained: “We were not surprised by the noise the landing mishap generated because those who are close to the industry know clearly that tyre burst at the point of landing is a normal incident.” The Director stated that “ the pilot who was fully conscious of the mishap took full control , taxied it and parked the aircraft to pave the way for evacuation”.
Reacting to the incident, yesterday, Mr. Joe Obi, Special Adviser to the Minister of Aviation, stated that the plane only had a stop over at the airport to pick additional passengers. However, he admitted that the aircraft landed with deflated tyres and damaged parts of the instruments landing system (ILS) at the runway.
Obi’s statement reads: “On October 4, 2013, a Boeing 747-3 aircraft with Reg 5N-JRM, operated by Kabo Airlines arrived safely with all passengers and crew on board, following a landing incident at the Sokoto airport at 2100 GMT.
” The aircraft, which departed from Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, was enroute Saudi Arabia when it had a stop-over at the Sokoto airport for passenger pick-up. Preliminary reports indicate that the control tower gave the pilot clearance to land on Runway 08 but the captain opted to use Runway 26, for reasons yet to be ascertained. The 512 souls on board, made of 494 passengers and 18 crew members, landed safely. The aircraft, however, damaged some Instruments Landing System (ILS) and came to a stop with deflated tyres. The FAAN emergency response apparatus acted swiftly to secure all souls on board and the aircraft.
“The airline has since made arrangements for another aircraft to pick the passengers to complete their journey to Saudi Arabia.”
Meanwhile, the Abuja-Benin flight that could not land caused anxious moments.
After about 30-minutes into the flight and the plane unable to land, passengers were said to have been held in frightful suspense.
The pilot, it was learnt, explained to the passengers that he was unable to land the plane due to heavy rainfall in Benin which caused poor visibility as well as waterlogged and slippery runway.
The scenario allegedly caused uneasy calm and panic in the aircraft which hovered in the Benin airspace for about 45 minutes, as people silently and openly prayed to God and sang spiritual songs.
The fright that gripped the passengers in the plane was not helped by the fact that the newspapers most of them had were awash with reports and pictures of the plane crash involving the corpse of the late former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Agagu, the previous day.
An attempt to land the plane at nearby Esubi Airstrip, Warri proved abortive too, following which the pilot allegedly informed the passengers that he could not lose more aviation fuel trying to land the plane, and then opted to fly back to Abuja, a decision the passengers applauded.
On return, Abuja was said to have had rainstorm too but with a well-lit runway that was not waterlogged. The plane landed successfully to the relief of the passengers.
A good number of the passengers were said to have opted for a refund which the airline obliged, while others resolved to still travel with the flight rescheduled for 9: 30am yesterday.