- Declares emergency landing after engine malfunction
Chinedu Eze in Lagos, Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano and Laleye Dipo in Minna
No fewer than 550 pilgrims from Niger who performed this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia yesterday escaped death at the Minna International Airport as the Max Airline plane conveying them back to Nigeria skidded off the runway.
THISDAY learnt that the incident occurred at about 5:00 a.m according to a source at the airport. The State Pilgrims Welfare Board confirmed the incident, though did not give detail about it.
It was learnt that the Boeing B747 aircraft with registration number 5N-DBK was said to have developed fault in one of its four engines on final approach to the airport and the pilot in command contacted the control tower and demanded emergency landing.
THISDAY, also, gathered that part of the tarmac and some materials were also damaged by the aircraft which skidded off the runway.
An eyewitness account said most of the passengers were in shock as they rushed out of the plane. However, according to the account, no one died as a result of the incident.
He said: “I have never seen this type of thing in my life only God saved us from a terrible disaster. The fire that would have followed would have spread to all parts of the airport because we don’t have fire fighting vehicles in this airport.”
It was gathered that five officials of the Accident Bureau of Investigation (AIB) from Lagos arrived the airport and immediately inspected the partly damaged aircraft after which they went into a closed door meeting.
Responding to THISDAY inquiry yesterday, the spokesperson of the State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Hajia Hassana Isah confirmed the report, though did not give further details.
Isah, however, said the development would not affect the return journey of the over 2000 pilgrims still in Saudi Arabia adding that the deadline for the return journey of the pilgrims would be met.
“It was a technical fault, though we are yet to be adequately briefed by the experts on what happened but the place landed successfully”, he said.
Giving updates about the incident yesterday, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) confirmed that a Max Air flight that airlifted 560 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia declared emergency after engine malfunction.
Consequently, the aviation regulatory body said the aircraft made hard landing, which damaged the runway of the Minna International Airport early.
Every passenger and crew was safely evacuated without any injuries. The serious incident was also confirmed by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which had already sent inspectors to Minna to inspect the aircraft.
In a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Tunji Oketunmbi, AIB said, “The Accident Investigation Bureau, Nigeria has been notified on September 7, by Max Air Limited of a serious incident involving its Boeing B747-400 aircraft with nationality and registration marks 5N-DBK.
“The incident occurred during the final approach on the runway 23 at Minna International Airport, Niger state. The aircraft took off from King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with 560 passengers and 19 crewmembers on board.
“From the information provided, the aircraft on landing screeped the runway while the number one engine brushed the runway surface and no injury was reported. Our team of safety investigators has commenced investigation.”
However, the management of Max Air Operating the 2019 Hajj Exercise Transportation yesterday denied that the aircraft crash landed at Minna Airport, Niger State.
Director Flight Operation of Max Air Limited, Captain Ibrahim Dilli denied the report in a statement last night, noting that the plane Boeing 744 rather safe landed at the airport in Niger due to lack of Runaway Traffic lights and bad weather.
The statement said how would an aircraft crash land with passengers without a scratch on any of the passenger and the aircraft was not damaged.
According to the statement, the reports that our plane crashed landed is untrue is a mischief making calculated at tarnishing our long service of safely transportation of Nigerians and others”
The statement said the Aircraft never developed any engine problems but rather whether at the airport and the lack of runway light forced us to save landed.
It said already pilgrims “are in good health, who have since met their families, while the aircraft is refilling for further transportation of passengers.”