International flights diverted as Air Peace plane makes emergency landing

• Aircraft’s nose-wheel damaged on runway
Flight operations at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) were yesterday grounded for hours as an Air Peace plane made emergency landing on the runway often used by foreign carriers.The plane lost its front wheel to the mid day incident and remained stationary towards the end of the runway until it was evacuated about six hours later.The development, however, led to temporary closure of the runway to operations due to safety concerns. The Guardian learnt that while few single-aisle planes used the nearby local airport runway, also called 18L, bigger aircraft diverted to airports in Lome, Togo and Accra, Ghana.

Passengers were stranded as their flights were delayed for hours. At 6:30pm when The Guardian visited, the terminal was full of travelers, as customers of almost all the major international airlines were waiting to check in. Among the delayed airlines were British Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airline, Delta Airline, Air France/KLM, Air Cote d’Ivoire, and African World Airline (AWA).

The Air Peace Boeing 737-300, marked 5N-BQO, was flying from Port Harcourt and made emergency landing about 11:28am at the airport. The aircraft had 133 passengers and six crew members on board, some of who sustained minor injuries.

The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which was notified of the incident, said from available information, the aircraft’s nose-wheel collapsed while landing on the runway, also called 18R, as the nose-wheel gear cut off.Chief Executive Officer of AIB, Akin Olateru, said the bureau was informed of a minor injury, but no fatality, adding that safety investigators had commenced investigations and that AIB would need the support of members of the public to unravel the cause.

However, Chief Operating Officer of Air Peace, Toyin Olajide, said, “Captain Ajibola noticed sudden weather changes when approaching Lagos and demanded to land on the international runway because it is longer and wider than the domestic runway. “After landing safely and rolling to the runway exit, the nose gear developed a problem and partially collapsed. The crew notified the airport authorities, who quickly ensured the safe disembarkation of the passengers via the passenger door.”

Olajide said the airline remain committed to the safety of its passengers and would continue to operate in line with international best practice and regulatory guidelines.

But while the incident lasted, international scheduled carriers flying into the airport had a torrid time. Ethiopian airline, for instance, arrived shortly after the incident and had to hover around the Lagos airport for almost an hour before diverting to its alternate airport in Lome, Togo.

Emirates airlines that often departs its first of twice-daily Lagos flights at noon, was also delayed for hours. At about 6:30pm, Lufthansa and Turkish Airline’s dreamliners were sighted on the apron, as their passengers remained stranded at the terminal.

The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) denied a heavy toll on international operations, saying the airlines were made to use the runway 18L, while Air Peace aircraft was being rescued from runway 18R.Spokesperson of the authority, Henrietta Yakubu, confirmed that the runway 18R had reopened as at press time yesterday, with Emirates Airlines B777 being the first to depart.

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