Panic Grips Obasanjo, 392 Others as Aircraft Aborts Landing

Olusegun Obasanjo

Chinedu Eze

Panic yesterday gripped 393 passengers, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who were aboard Ethiopian airline passenger aircraft, which aborted initial landing at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport due to bad weather.

A report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) listed other prominent Nigerians aboard the Ethiopian Airline passenger aircraft Boeing 777-300 to include the Director General of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Ambassador Ayoola Olukanni.

Obasanjo and Olukanni were said to have attended a Stakeholders Dialogue on Continental Trade and Strengthening Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which ended on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Also in the plane was the Director of Ports Inspection, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Samson Adebayo, as well as hundreds of Nigerians and other nationals.

The passenger aircraft, ET-901, had departed the Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, at 7 a.m. Nigerian time.

A NAN correspondent, who was among the passengers, reported that the almost five-hour flight from the Ethiopian capital to Lagos had been smooth until the pilot attempted to land at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

Rather than landing on the first touchline of the runway, the pilot overshot it, due to rain and heavy wind, landing on the third touchline.

He said due to the bad weather the pilot maneuverer the plane back into the air, flying out of the Lagos airport.

After hovering between Lagos and areas suspected to be in Ogun State, causing panic among passengers and crew members, the plane finally landed in Lagos airport, some 20 minutes after the initial false landing.

Upon landing at the airport, many passengers broke out into worship songs and clapping, while some fell to their knees in prayer.

The Duty Manager and Chief Customer Service (Nigeria) of the airline, Mr. Otori Otan, told NAN that if the pilot had continued taxing down after landing on the third touch line, he would have overshot the runway.

“But this is an experienced pilot. He realised this immediately.

“Fortunately, the distance between when he realised the situation still permitted him to take off and renegotiate landing,” Otori said.

He added that the incident was not out of place, while confirming that the wind obscured the pilot’s vision.

Otori said most of the aircraft that flew out of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport had to fly against the mid-day heavy wind.

He explained: “These things happen. That is where the sophistication of the aircraft and experience of the cabin crew members come in.

“The aircraft is one of the best you can have around and we are fortunate to have pilots who know their onions.”

In a statement signed by its General Manager, Public Affairs, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), said the flight landed safely at the airport.

“An Ethiopian Airline flight numbered ET 901 flying from Addis Ababa to Lagos today landed safely at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. The flight, which tried to land at about 1157hours had earlier mis-approached due to bad weather and immediately went up to position properly for landing. The aircraft landed safely at exactly 1213 hours and parked at gate E63. The Ethiopian flight had departed Lagos for Addis Ababa at 1351hours,” she explained.

Media Consultant to Ethiopian Airline, Mr. Ikechi Uko, confirmed that the aircraft had a “missed approach” while about landing due to poor visibility caused by weather.

“The aircraft thereafter made an air return before it proceeded to land successfully,” he said.

He said the pilot’s effort was in line with Safety and Recommended Practices (SARPS) in aviation.