A passenger on the Accra bound Arik Air Flight W3304 from Lagos Tuesday day night which was alleged to have caught fire 35 minutes after takeoff from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos narrated his near-death experience with the flight.
The 55 minutes flight was operated by a Bombardier Q400 (Dash 8) aircraft and took off at about 7:20 p.m. Nigerian time.
According to Thisday, the passenger who narrated his experience on the flight said the fire was noticed when an acrid smell of burning plastic wafted through the cabin of the aircraft, accompanied by huge smoke, which the passenger who declined to disclose his identity, said could not be traced by the frantic cabin crew.
The passenger who provided details of the incident described it as a horrible experience which could have been fatal.
According to the passenger, “Thirty-five minutes into the 55-minute flight, I started smelling something like a burning stuff. Shortly after, the guy sitting next to me asked if I could smell something burning and that confirmed my worst fears.
“Before you could say, Jack Robinson, smoke had filled the cabin. The air hostesses were busy scampering around opening the cabins and the lavatories to check if they could trace the source of the smoke without success.
“While that continued, the oxygen masks that are always advertised during the safety demo prior to take-off could not be released, instead we were handed tissue paper to cover our noses to minimise and filter any possible carbon monoxide inhalation.
“About five minutes after, precisely with 15 minutes of flight time remaining, the pilot came on the public address system to inform us that they have smoke coming into the cabin but they did not know the source of the smoke and that they have declared an emergency.”
The passenger said he was relieved when the flight successfully landed by 8.15p.m. (7.15 p.m. Accra time) into the waiting arms of several fire service trucks at the Kotoko International Airport, Accra.
“We were evacuated into a waiting bus with instructions to leave everything behind in the cabin. Sadly. there was no Arik official to address us, nor was there any manner of first aid given to the passengers to manage stress and possible elevated blood pressure.
“After a while our cabin luggage were brought to us and we had to leave from there to go through the Ghanaian immigration to our individual destinations,” he added.
Since the incident occurred neither the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA.) nor the management of the airline has issued any statement on the incident.
Reacting to the incident, the communications manager of the airline, Banji Ola, said in a statement: “Arik Air Flight W3 304 from Lagos to Accra on March 6, 2018 declared an emergency in line with standard operating procedures when an unknown source of smoke was detected in the cabin 81 miles from Accra.
“The captain of the flight briefed the passengers accordingly, assuring them that the aircraft was under control and safe for landing in Accra.
“The aircraft, a Dash 8 Q400, landed safely in Accra without further incident and all passengers disembarked normally.
“The aircraft is currently parked in Accra and our team of engineers are conducting a comprehensive inspection on the aircraft to ascertain the cause of the smoke, after which the aircraft will be flown without passengers to a maintenance facility for rectification and testing.
“The relevant aviation authorities in Ghana and Nigeria have been briefed appropriately on the incident.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s domestic carrier, Dana Air, thursday reacted to the directive given by the federal government that its operations should be audited, adding that it was ready for the exercise.
“We therefore welcome the recent audit ordered by the federal government and we are willing to work with the team and the federal government to demonstrate our commitment not just to flying but to flying safe,” the airline said.
In a statement signed by its head of communications, Kingsley Ezenwa, Dana Air commended the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) for releasing preliminary report on the incident when its flight overshot the runway and skidded into the bush at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa on February 23, 2018.
It said the report has confirmed its earlier statement that Air Traffic Control directed the pilot in command of the flight to land on the runway over flooded by heavy downpour.
The airline said: “Excerpts of the reports confirmed that the Air Traffic Control, an arm of the Nigerian Air Space Management Agency that is saddled with the responsibility of issuing instructions that the pilots are required to obey, had cleared the pilot in command to land.
“It is pertinent to note that the pilot of that flight is a happily married man and a proud father of three beautiful children. He has over 30 years experience in the aviation industry and is one of the very best in his profession, meticulous in his duties, and headhunted from another domestic airline where he also served as the head of safety and quality standards,” the statement said.
The airline remarked that considering the safety measures that it has put in place and its huge investment in training and retraining of its crew and pilots, “we decided not to join issues, but to rather wait on the report of the AIB, the authentic body responsible for such investigations.”
It disclosed that in 2013, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and its foreign partners, the Flight Safety Group, carried out an audit on its operations and in 2016, as a result of its commitment to global safety standards, “we applied to become a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), went through their audit and subsequently became a member in 2016.
“Our route and fleet expansion program is still very much on course and we remain dedicated to our recent interline and aircraft partnership with Asky airline, another formidable airline in Africa,” it also said.
It commended the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, “who has proven himself as a technocrat, and our esteemed guests for keeping faith with us while the incident was under investigation and we wish to reassure our guests of our commitment towards providing safe, reliable and affordable air transport.”