At least 120 Passengers, including the Director, Muslim Rights Concern, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, on Friday evening escaped death as an Aero Contractors Airline Flight 180 from Lagos to Kaduna developed technical fault mid-air.
The aircraft was said to have suddenly lost altitude, 20 minutes after it departed the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, forcing the aircraft to wobble in the air for over one hour before it was eventually diverted to Abuja.
Akintola, who broke the news to New Mail, said the flight took off from Lagos at exactly 6.30pm.
He said 20 minutes into the flight, the aircraft lost altitude and the passengers had to make use of the oxygen masks as the plane continued to wobble, while dropping steadily.
Akintola said, “The plane lost altitude 20 minutes after takeoff. We had to make use of the oxygen masks. We saw smoke outside the plane, probably coming from the engine compartment.
“At this time, the whole plane was thrown into commotion. Many passengers screamed and some fainted. Prayers upon prayers were offered. Some shouted Allah, others Jesus.”
Akintola said it was in the midst of the commotion that the crew, whom he commended for their professionalism and unusual calmness, announced that the plane would be diverted to Abuja.
He said, “While the pilot was making the announcement of the flight diversion, I noticed that his voice was trembling. He told us that Abuja was 120 miles away and that we would land in 25 minutes. But we were not sure we would make it.
“In fact, I quickly recited the Kalimah (the Quranic invocation of the oneness of Allah), believing that the end had come,” Akintola added in messages to New Mail.
He said that the plane finally touched down in Abuja at about 9.00pm and upon landing in Abuja, the officials of the airline told the devastated passengers that the fault would be hurriedly repaired and that the plane would proceed to take them to Kaduna, their original destination.