There was tension at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja on Friday as a Benin-bound Arik Air flight returned to Abuja for landing after hovering over Benin Airport for about 45 minutes.
It was learnt that the passengers became tensed when the approximately 30 minutes flight took over 50 minutes.
Sources at the Abuja airport told our correspondent that the passengers were seen praising God after the flight returned and successfully landed in the Federal Capital.
The air return incident happened barely 24 hours after an Associated Airlines chartered flight conveying the corpse of former Ondo State Governor, Mr. Olusegun Agagu, crashed in Lagos, killing 13 out of the 20 persons on board.
It was gathered that the pilot of the Arik flight explained that he could not land the aircraft due to heavy rainfall in Benin, which caused poor visibility as well as a waterlogged and slippery runway.
The development, according to airport sources, created tension in the flight. Passengers silently and openly prayed and sang songs until the aircraft touched down at the Abuja airport.
“The downpour was much to the extent that an attempt to land the plane in close-by Esubi Airstrip in Warri proved abortive too,” a source said.
A senior official at the Abuja airport told our correspondent that the airline showed willingness to refund the fares of the affected passengers.
The official said those who fares were not refunded were asked to come to the airport the next day for the journey.
When contacted, the spokesperson for Arik Air, Mr. Banji Ola, told our correspondent that the airline followed stipulated rules that guide flight operations globally.
He said, “Nothing happened on Saturday. What happened on Friday was as a result of bad weather in Benin and the air return was normal for that is according to industry standard globally.”
A Saudi bound Boeing 747 jumbo jet crash was averted in Sokoko.
The jet which belongs to Kabo Air was said to be having about 400 passengers on board.
The jet left Kano Friday on it way to Saudi Arabia but diverted to Sokoto when the incident happened
Kabo Air is an airline headquartered in Kano, Kano State, Nigeria. The airline was established in February 1980 by Dr. Alhaji Muhammadu Adamu Dankabo.
It originally operated special charter services for corporate bodies, executives and government officials. However, in 2009 the airline received approval to start international scheduled services. The airline operated scheduled flights from Kano to Abuja, Dubai and Jeddah. Its main base is Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport.
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 black.
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”.