But for divine intervention, yesterday could have recorded yet another air mishap, as an Arik Air Flight W3 232, heading to Abuja from Enugu, skidded off the runway on arrival in Abuja due to turbulence, which warning the pilot allegedly ignored.
This happened hours after another Arik plane in Jos brushed the wing of a parked Nigeria Air Force plane, causing substantial damage to the two aircraft.
The Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, confirmed the Jos incident.
Also, a statement credited to the Nigerian Air Force confirmed the accident last night. Wing Commander A. Makun, who signed the statement, said: “An Arik Airline (aircraft) Boeing 737-700 with Registration No. 5NMJI on a routine flight to Lagos, brushed the wing of a parked Nigerian Air Force C-130 (NAF 917) at the Yakubu Gowon Airport, Heipang Jos.
“The incident happened at about 13:45 hrs today (yesterday) when the Arik aircraft was taxiing at the airport tarmac in preparation for take-off.
“The tank 1 wing tip of the NAF C-130 was damaged while the wing of the Arik aircraft was dismembered and hung on the aircraft.
“There was no casualty recorded during the incident; however, the two aircraft had to abort their missions.
“The NAF C-130 was in Jos to airlift students of the Air Force Military School and Air Force Girls’ Military School.
“Meanwhile, a joint investigation by the Nigerian Air Force and Arik Airline management has commenced.”
The Guardian learnt that the Arik aircraft, a Boeing 737-700 from Enugu to Abuja, scheduled to depart Enugu at about 10am, was delayed until 11:40am due to reports of approaching bad weather in Abuja.
According to an eyewitness, in a rush to get to Abuja before the start of the rains, the captain allegedly ignored all warnings and “took the aircraft and passengers through an extremely turbulent flight.”
A passenger on the fight said: “People clung on to their seats for dear life with shouts and cries of ‘Jesus’”.
On landing at Abuja, the plane almost skidded off the runway and the passengers had to wait in the aircraft for 30 minutes before disembarking due to the downpour.
The NCAA had, last week, warned airline operators and pilots about the danger of prevailing weather, which could be dangerous for flight operators.
In a statement signed by its Director-General, Demuren, the regulatory body said that there was need for pilots to exercise restraint in adverse weather and respect weather forecast.
Demuren advised pilots to be patient enough to wait and allow weather to subside or pass over the airfield before commencing flight.
“We are in the mid-stream of rainy season, which is usually characterised by severe thunderstorm and line squall with its attendant turbulence, microbursts, lightning and low-level wind shear.
“Suffice it to say that such weather conditions can be deadly to aircraft on approach or departure from an airport and have been responsible for a number of fatal accidents in the world and in our country, Nigeria,” the statement said.
NCAA said that it was mandatory for pilots to obtain weather briefing from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), including departure, en-route and destination weather information prior to flight operations.
“You are required to ensure strict compliance with the laid-down regulations,” the statement directed.