By Chuks Okoh
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA), Saturday grounded a Boeing 737 aircraft belonging to Medview Airlines that made an air return five minutes after it took off from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos .There were 99 passengers and five crew members on board the aircraft .
According to the acting director general of NCAA, Engineer Benefict Adeyileka, the grounding of the aircraft became imperative to enable the NCAA team of aircraft engineers and inspectors as well as engineers of the Medview carry out serious checks on the aircraft that had a false fire alarm.
Adeyileka said NCAA engineer have opened up the panels of the aircraft to find out the cause of the fire alarm. He said findings so far suggests that the aircraft is in good order, and it will be released and recertified for operations after the team of inspectors complete findings on it .
He added that the pilot acted in good faith by aborting the flight after passengers exhibited signs of panic on board.
Adeyileka said it will not be professional for any pilot to continue with a flight when there is doubt about the safety if the aircraft from concerns raised by passengers no matter how insignificant .
He said :” The pilot acted in good faith . The safest thing to do when there is commotion in the cabin is to return the aircraft to the ground . We prefer a false alarm to an (accident) . Air return does not constitute an emergency. The NCAA and its team of inspectors are visibly in the ramp at the airport carrying out routine inspection . Air return is a precautionary safety measure . The aircraft as we speak is currently grounded . NCAA and Medview Airlines engineers and inspectors have opened up the aircraft for findings and so far they have not found anything . Because of the panic the safest thing is to return to the ground .
Adeyileka said :” The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority wishes to clarify the circumstances surrounding an air return involving a Medwiew airline, Boeing 737 with the registration number 5N-BPB. The pilot made a successfully precautionary landing with all 99 persons on board including 5 crew members.
The aircraft which took off at 8:12 am was enroute to Abuja and returned to Lagos at 8:17am as a result of slight fumes observed in the aircraft, which the passengers mistook for fire and reacted in panic. The captain of the aircraft took a decision to return to Lagos more from the danger of passenger reaction which may have destabilized the aircraft, rather than from the
fumes. This is also in line with NCAA directive to pilots to return to base in case of doubts.
The NCAA has already commenced investigation to ascertain the cause of the fumes as
inspectors were on ground on routine ramp inspection at the time of the incident. The NCAA however, calls on the general public, especially aviation stakeholders not to panic as the incident has already been brought under control. The NCAA remains committed to a safe and secure aviation industry.”