Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday narrated how he escaped death while on board an Ethiopian Airline flight that almost crashed on Wednesday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
The aircraft, Boeing 777-300, carrying Obasanjo and 393 other passengers nearly crashed while attempting to land before the pilot took off again. It successfully landed after hovering on the airspace for another 10 minutes.
The Premium Times quoted Obasanjo as saying: “While it all happened, I was reading my papers. One man, who was next to me, said, ‘Oga you no worry?’ I said, ‘if I worry, what will I do? If you are on a plane and you have a situation like this, why should you worry?’ I left everything in the hands of God.”
“I was on Ethiopian Airline. The pilot thought he could land. And he landed. He touched down. But I think he took a swift decision that he had to take off again. “So, he took off. If he did not, I think he probably would have overrun the runway. He then apologised and said he would try to land again. He tried again, and we landed safely. And we all clapped,” he said.
According to him, the pilot first landed the plane at about 12:20 p.m. before the incident, but finally landed safely on return at 12:30 p.m. Another account stated that the incident was caused by rain and heavy wind which made the plane to do a slight touch down on the third touchline, instead of the first touchline of the runway.
The aircraft departed the Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, at about 9.10 am, Ethiopian time; 7 am, Nigerian time. A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), who was among the passengers, first broke the news.
The journalist was quoted as saying that the almost five-hour flight from the Ethiopian capital to Lagos was smooth until the pilot attempted to land at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.
The passenger said that on realising the unsavoury scenario, the pilot quickly manoeuvred the plane back on air, flying out of the Lagos airport. After hovering around between Lagos and parts of Ogun State, which caused panic among passengers and crew members, the plane landed in Lagos airport, some 20 minutes after the initial false landing, the reporter said The atmosphere in the air bus upon landing was replica of what is obtainable in some Nigerian worship centres, as many passengers broke out into praises of God and clapping, while others fell on their knees in prayer.
The duty manager and chief customer service (Nigeria) of the airline, Mr. Otori Jimoh Otan, told journalists that if the pilot had continued taxing down, after landing on the third touchline, 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 also disclosed that most of the aircraft that flew out of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport had to fly against the mid-day heavy wind.
“These things happen. That is where the sophistication of the aircraft and the 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”, he said.
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