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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mid-air disaster averted in Virgin Nigeria flight from Accra

About 50 passengers on a Virgin Nigeria flight from Accra, Ghana to Abuja, Nigeria yesterday narrowly escaped death when the aircraft developed electrical fault midway into the journey.

Those on board went through ten minutes of harrowing experience, according to one of the passengers.

The passenger, who pleaded anonymity, confided in NEXT yesterday that it was simply ‘ten long minutes of hell' for the passengers.

Flight VK-812

The early morning flight, VK-812, reportedly took off from the Accra International Airport at about 8.30am but developed electrical problems less than half an hour into the journey.

"It was an early morning flight from Accra, Ghana to Abuja. The flight took off at about 8.30am. It was not long after the plane had gained stability that about 30 minutes into the flight, there was a whiff in the air, which gradually built into a thick smoke that enveloped the inside of the aircraft. "Not long after, face masks dropped from the panel above the passengers' heads, followed by an instruction from the pilot through the in-flight public address system for passengers to put the face masks on their faces and prepare for emergency landing," the passenger said.

Frenzy amid confusion

According to him, the instruction from the flight cabin immediately triggered a general frenzy and panic, as all the passengers thought the plane was already going down.

"Amid the commotion, some panic-stricken passengers were already praying for God's intervention to save the situation, while others, who were too terrified to remember carrying out the pilot's instruction, merely stared blankly into space, in a spontaneous resignation to fate as they began saying their last prayers for the repose of their souls waiting with apprehension for the worse to happen," he recalled.

He disclosed that the passengers were mainly businessmen and professionals returning to Abuja from a business trip to Ghana. According to him, just as the passengers were struggling to come to terms with the reality of their situation, the pilot announced through the public address system that the situation is under control, as the aircraft regained stability. According to him, the problem was traced to the air-conditioning system in the aircraft.

The assurances from the pilot as well as the flight attendants, who went round from passenger-to-passenger, were hardly enough to assuage their apprehension, as most of them hardly remembered to remove their face masks and relax long after they were asked to do so, he said.

Safe landing

When the flight finally touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, NEXT gathered that it was all praises to God by the passengers for saving them.

"The mood of the passengers was that of joy, having survived more than ten minutes of close shave with death. Some were hugging themselves in palpable frenzy and generally displayed a sense of victory, for surviving what could have been a disastrous end," the passenger said. No management apologies He said however said that the passengers were surprised that on arrival, the management of Virgin Nigeria did not apologise for incident, apart from the pilot, who merely said he was sorry about what happened and thanked the passengers for their patronage and understanding. NEXT gathered that most of the passengers called for a proper investigation into the incident by the relevant monitoring authorities at the airport to get to the root of what really went wrong with the plane, to avoid a disastrous experience in the future.

Reaction from Virgin

Francis Ayigbe, Virgin Nigeria's spokesman, confirming the incident, said before landing in Abuja, one of the air conditioners stopped functioning, which later affected the other. And because of the peculiarity of the system, which is compressurised, the cabin became hot. Three minutes before landing however, the air conditioners started working.

He said that the aircraft was certified air worthy, the night before the flight. Mr. Ayigbe however stated that the aircraft could not land on time in Abuja because there was air traffic problem and flights were put on queue and had to take turns to land.

Source: NEXT

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