Of Airplanes, Flying Coffins and Cursed Air Skies by Theophilus Ilevbare
The recent crash of Governor Dambaba Suntai’s Private Jet ensured that Nigeria maintained its high ranking in global air crashes in the last two decades in consonant with African Airlines Associated indices which placed Nigeria top among 10 African countries with high air accidents.
Carnage by flying coffins has claimed thousands of lives, including eminent Nigerians, promising children and officers of the Nigerian Army. Ten Generals lost their lives in a monumental crash in September 2006. Even in war front no country loses ten Generals!
Unknown to many, the litany of air mishap in the country dates back to four years before Nigeria’s independence and not 1969 as widely documented.
Today, the news of Air crash is hackneyed. Multiple crashes in a single year, now considered far from heartbraking.
From November 1969, when a Government owned DC-10 aircraft on a flight from London crash-landed in Lagos, its been a flurry, particularly in the last 20years, averaging one crash every other year.
Between November 1969 and October 2006, at least 1000 persons have been killed in plane crashes involving Nigeria, Nigerians or Nigerian-operated aircrafts.
With the perpetual deplorable state of Nigerian roads, official statistics released by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) recorded more than 9, 395 deaths in about 29,000 road accidents across Nigeria between 2010 and 2011 and more than 35, 559 injured in these accidents during thesame period. To those who could afford Air travel, a safer, reliable and faster alternative it was meant to be, but the statistics below has proven otherwise…
* June 24, 1956: A British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) four-engined Canadair C-4 Argonaut airliner registered G-ALHE crashed into a tree on departure from Kano Airport in Nigeria, 3 crew and 29 passengers were killed
* November 20, 1969: A government owned DC-10 aircraft on a flight from London crash landed and killed all 87 passengers and crew on board in Lagos
* 1973, A Boeing 707 crashed in Kano. 171 Nigerian Muslims returning from Mecca and 5 crewmen died in crash.
* March 1978: A Nigeria Airways plane crashed in Kano, 16 people died.
* December 3, 1988, Nigeria Airways Forker-28 crashed in Enugu, killing 103 passengers.
* December 1988: Skypower Brandeironte aircraft overshot Ilorin Airport runway leaving all passengers dead.
* February 24, 1991: British Helicopter crashed in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, killing all nine people on board.
* May 21, 1991: A Cessna Citation 550 of Ashaka Cement, crashed, killing all on board.
* June 26, 1991: An Okada Air Bac-11 crashed in Sokoto, three people died.
* July 11, 1991: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Canadian chartered DC-8 carrying pilgrims returning to Nigeria crashed after take-off, killing 261 people.
* September 26, 1992: Nigerian Air Force A C-130 plane crashed minutes after take-off from Lagos. All 200 on board killed.
* Ibrahim Abacha, son of Sani Abacha, was killed in a plane crash on January 17, 1996. The group “United Front for Nigeria’s Liberation” (UFNL) claimed responsibility for the crash.
* November 1996, ADC Plane at Ejirin, near Epe, controlled by Captain Sama, Plunged into lagoon. The aircraft touched down about halfway down the runway and eventually skidded off the runway off to one side. The aircraft was subsequently destroyed by fire. Nine of the 129 passengers were killed.
* September 12, 1997: A NAF Dornier 228 in Bornu State ran into a ditch during take off, none of the 10 people died.
* October 26, 2000: Dornier aircraft plunged into a thick bush near the Niger Delta, 6 occupants injured.
* May 4, 2002: EAS Airline BAC 1-11 bound for Lagos plunged into a poor, densely populated suburb of Kano shortly after takeoff, killing 148. Dead included all 76 aboard and dozens on the ground.
* March 20, 2003: An ADC Boeing 737 from Calabar Airport skidded off the runway. 100 people on board escaped death.
* November 30, 2003: A Cargo aircraft of Hydro Cargo, Brussels, Belgium, crash landed.
* March 6, 2004: An Aenail spray aircraft with registration number 5NBEF belonging to Berfieex Nigeria Ltd, crashed at the Bauchi Airport.
* July 26, 2004: Pan African Airlines’ helicopter crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in Delta State, 4 people on board died.
* December 29, 2004: A Boeing 727 of Chanchangi Airlines belly-landed at the MMA
* December 29, 2004: A Kenya Airlines aircraft crashed – landed at the MMA due to gear fault.* December 29, 2004: A Kenya Airlines aircraft crashed – landed at the MMA due to gear fault.
* January 28, 2005: A Nigeria Air Force fighter plane crashed into a farmland in Yar Kanya, Kano State.
* February 25, 2005: ADC’s B73 aircraft had its tyre burnt while landing at Yola airport.
* March 27, 2005: A Boeing 737 of Bellview, one of its engines caught fire.
* June 12, 2005, Lagos: A Boeing 727-200 aircraft belonging to the domestic Chachangi Airlines overshot the runway at Murtala Muhammed Airport, while another overshot the runway at the airport in Jos in central Nigeria a day earlier (June 11, 2005).
* June 24, 2005: A Russian aircraft belonging to Harka Air crash – landed at the MMA, all the people on board died.
* July 6, 2005, Port Harcourt: An Air France A330 plane crashed into a herd of cattle at Port Harcourt airport sustaining serious damage and killing many of the cows. The airport had no perimeter fence and herdsmen usually take their cattle across the tarmac and sometimes abandon them there.
* July 13, 2005, Lagos: A Ugandan-registered cargo aircraft, belonging to Almiron Aviation, overshot the runway at Murtala Muhammed airport. There were no casualties.
* On July 23, 2005, a Lufthansa aircraft crash – landed at Lagos airport and was badly damaged, but no life was lost.
* October 22, 2005: A Bellview airline Boeing 737 carrying 117 people on board crashes soon after take-off from the Nigerian city of Lagos, killing everyone on board.
* December 10, 2005: A Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 crashes in the southern Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, killing 103 people on board including 75 school children.
* September 17, 2006: Air Force Dornier 228-212 aircraft (with 18 people on board) crashed into the hills of Ushongo village in Benue State, 18 nautical miles from its destination, Obudu in Cross River State; 18 people (including 10 army generals and 4 colonels) died.
* October 29, 2006: Ninety-six of the passengers who boarded the ADC flight from Abuja destined for the north-western city of Sokoto, died including the spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Muslim, the Sultan of Sokoto.
* November 10, 2006: OAS Service Helicopter crashed in Warri, Delta state killing 4 on board.
* August 2, 2007: Bristow-owned helicopter crashed inside ExxonMobil facility in Port Harcourt.
* March 15, 2008: Beechcraft 1900D plane marked 5N-JAH, belonging to Wing Aviation crashed in the mountainous forest of Busi in Cross River State on its way to Obudu airstrip. The wreakage was not found until 6 months after the disappearance of the aircraft. All 4 man crew on board died.
* March 8, 2011: HS-125 chartered aircraft crashed in Bauchi. No casualty.
* July 29, 2011: A Kwara State-bound helicopter crashed in Osun State killing all on board.
* June 3, 2012 – A Dana Air passenger plane carrying 147 people crashed in the Agege suburb of Lagos, killing all 153 passengers and crew on board. Several others also died as the ill-fated Dana Airline Flight 992 plane destroyed some buildings in the area, killing about 12 residents and injuring many.
The Dana air mishap is still the world’s worst air crash in 2012, Nigeria’s worst air crash since the 1992 air disaster that claimed 200 lives.
And most recently…
* October 25, 2012: Taraba State Governor Dambaba Suntai’s self piloted Cessna-208 private Jet crashed few metres to the Yola International Airport in Adamawa State.
To underscore the importance of air travel, Gov Suntai of Taraba State crashed his private jet, lucky to be alive with injury, was flown in another to Germany for ‘proper’ medical attention, yet over the years our leaders have neglected this sector.
Political appointments have taken the place of technocrats made evident in the announcement by Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah of Dana Air as the best airline in 2012 after its crash of June 3 this year. Such award leaves much to be desired.
Typical of Nigerian Government tactics of circumventing a problem, they’ve found a new hobby in private jet acquisition, the latest being the $45m bombardier private jet by Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi amid the flood disaster in the state.
The Presidency is not left out as The Federal Executive Council had on August 12, 2010 approved $102m for the purchase of two Falcon 7X and $53.3m for one Gulfstream G550 aircraft to beef up the presidential fleet.
As Gov Dambaba Suntai’s crash has shown, private jet(s) acquisition does not guaranty air safety. Government should rather channel such funds at fighting corruption, appointing technocrats, infrastructure maintenance/upgrade and tackle other critical issues bedevilling the Aviation Ministry over the years.\
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