Simon Ateba/Aviation correspondent
An aircraft belonging to Medview Airline made an emergency landing at the Murtala Muhamme Airport in Lagos on Saturday just minutes after take-off, witnesses said.
The plane, a B737 with Registration No 5NBPB took off at 9:12am and flew only for five minutes and returned to the runway at 9.17am reportedly because smoke was discovered in the cabin.
There were 99 persons on board, including five crew.
Yakubu Dati, spokesperson of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, said in a statement that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA and the Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, have commenced investigation.
Amid reports that the plane caught fire mid-air, Dati said: “We call on the general public, especially aviation stakeholders to resist the urge to sensationalise an incident that is already under control.
We remain committed to a safe and secure aviation sector.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Benedith Adeyileka, the Acting Director-General of NCAA, told newsmen in Lagos at a news conference that the Abuja-bound plane made a “precautionary air return” and not “emergency landing.”
“The NCAA wants to clarify that Boeing 737 with the registration number 5N-BPB, enroute Abuja, did not make emergency landing, but air return.
“The pilot made a successful precautionary landing, with all the 99 persons on board including five crew members.
“The aircraft, which took off at 8:12 a.m., was en route Abuja and returned back to Lagos at 8:17am as a result of slight fumes observed in the aircraft, which the passengers mistook for fire and reacted in panic.
“The captain of the aircraft took a decision to return to Lagos, more from the danger of passengers’ reaction which may have destabilised the aircraft, rather than from the fumes.
“This is also in line with the NCAA’s directive to pilots to return to base in case of doubts,’’ Adeyileka said.
He said that NCAA had already commenced investigation to ascertain the cause of the fumes.
“The team of inspectors was on ground on routine ramp inspection at the time of the incident. The NCAA, however, calls on the general public, especially aviation stakeholders, not to panic as the incident has already been brought under control.
“The NCAA remains committed to a safe and secured aviation industry,’’ Adeyileka said.
He, however, said that the aircraft would remain grounded until the cause of the fumes is ascertained.
Mr Supo Atobatele, the General Manager, Public Affairs of the National Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), said that the pilot of the plane informed the Control Tower about the fumes and returned back to the airport shortly after take- off.
“All the passengers safely disembarked following the deployment of the emergency slides.
“The managing director of NAMA, gave kudos to the duty controller for responding promptly to the request of the pilot,’’ Atobatele said.
He said NAMA would not relent in its drive towards ensuring air safety in the country.