Flight disruption in Abuja as Max Air loses landing wheel - THE GUARDIAN
By Wole Oyebade (Lagos) and Joke Falaju (Abuja)
NSIB begins investigation
It was a chaotic scene at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja, yesterday, as Max Air airline had a serious incident on landing, and abruptly cordoned off the busy runway.
The emergency incident, which occurred at about 2:58 p.m., panicked onboard passengers, as much as it distressed all Abuja outbound and inbound passengers that were subsequently grounded for over seven hours.
The Guardian learnt that the Boeing 737 Max Air jet, with registration number 5N-MBD, and 149 souls onboard, took off from Yola Airport at 2:03pm, losing one of its left rear tyres.
An onboard passenger said the take off damage to a rear tyre was noticed by the passengers, “with many panicking and some started praying for safe landing.”
“The flight went well until it hit the Abuja runway, losing the second tyre, with more confusion for everyone on board. The roll was scary, and the left landing wheel was engulfed in flames.”
Emergency responders and Aerodrome Rescue and Fire-fighting Service (ARFFS), who had been intimated of the emergency landing, were on ground to put off the fire. All passengers and crew disembarked and safely evacuated on the runway.
Former President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Mike Ogirima, who was also onboard, gave an account of the incident, saying the tyre burst occurred after takeoff at Yola Airport.
Ogirima said: “We thank God. We are still on the runway, and the pilot has reassured us. He has called for the stairs, and we are now disembarking from the runway to be evacuated to the airport building at the arrival hall.
“We bless God because we have witnessed the pull-out of the tyre right from the airport in Yola, and we went into a prayer session. I never announced it as a surgeon, so as not to cause any panic, but we bless God.”
Officials of the Abuja Airport, when contacted at 5 p.m., said efforts were on to usher in a heavy duty crane to safely tow the damaged equipment off the runway, and have the same reopened to domestic and international flight operations.
“As it is, we cannot just move the aircraft that has lost a landing wheel on the runway. It requires a lot of effort, but we are trying to do that as soon as possible,” one of the aerodrome engineers said.
General Manager, Public Relations of the Nigeria Safety Investigations Bureau (NSIB), Tunji Oketumbi, said the runway was temporarily shut for repairs.
Oketumbi confirmed that the aircraft busted two tyres, but has been safely evacuated from the runway.
He added that NSIB officers were probing the incident, and details would be made available to the general public.
As at press time yesterday, Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, tweeted that the runway was due to be open in about an hour.