An IRS Airline plane yesterday narrowly escaped a crash when its landing system developed hydraulic failure as it began its descent into Kaduna airport.
Close to 100 passengers and crew members escaped unhurt after the plane crash-landed some minutes after 11: am.
The plane which left Lagos at about 9: 45am was carrying passengers who are mostly businessmen and their families coming to Kaduna for the Eid-el-Kabir celebrations.
The faulty landing system forced the pilot to hover in the air for close to 40 minutes while he struggled to fix the problem, passengers said.
The plane reportedly arrived in Kaduna around 9.45am, but could not land until minutes after 11am.
When the Kaduna airport was alerted, fire fighters were immediately deployed to prepare grounds for emergency landing. The runway was quickly covered with flame retardant form to prevent fire outbreak.
The pilot finally bumped the plane at the beginning of the tarmark but passengers were not allowed to disembark immediately until about 10 minutes after, and as they left the plane, they were instructed to run into nearby bush, fearing that there could be fire outbreak.
Capt Fola Akinkoutu Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, in a statement confirmed the incident.
He said an aircraft F. 100 with Reg no 5N-HIR, operated by IRS Airline landed safely, following a hydraulic leakage on the runway of Kaduna airport yesterday.
According to him, NCAA directed the airline to tow the aircraft to the apron and Accident Investigation Prevention Bureau, AIB, has commenced investigation into the incident.
He said, "The NCAA wishes to assure all air travelers of their safety and caution against magnifying a manageable incident out of proportion."
Speaking on the incident, IRS spokesman Yemi Dada said, "On final approach to Kaduna today (yesterday) on our flight 3390 with 89 passengers, our cockpit crew got a low hydraulic in system 1 warning and decided to take precautionary measures to ask for ground confirmation that all gears were down and locked and the aircraft landed normally after the control tower had confirmed that the gears were all down normally."
He said "the crew proceeded to land but followed procedure to disembark on the runway and not taxi in accordance with the procedure."
"All passengers disembarked normally and the aircraft was towed to ramp. The maintenance crew are inspecting to confirm the issue that caused the warning to the crew" he said.
Also speaking, Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation on media Mr Joe Obi confirmed the incident saying however that the IRS aircraft was not involved in emergency landing as was largely speculated.
He explained in a statement that "an IRS aircraft from Lagos to Kaduna landed safely at the airport at about 11 am this morning (yesterday) in spite of developing a minor hydraulic problem on approaching landing."
The incident occurred just over a week after a plane, belonging to Associated Airlines, crashed at the Lagos Airport killing 15 people. After the crash the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority NCAA, grounded the operations of Associated Airline, but IRS on its own suspended operations to carry out maintenance.
Our correspondent who went to the Kaduna airport observed an uneasy calm among airport workers and some passengers seen at the vicinity.
There was no reported casualty but the passengers were shaken by the rough landing. Fire fighters, air force personnel, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) officials and accident rescue officials were stationed at strategic locations on the run way, while the area was cordoned off.
A passenger, Dr. Aisha Muhammad, who spoke to our reporters, said the plane might have developed fault shortly after it took off in Lagos.
"The plane left Lagos around 9.45am and it was supposed to arrive Kaduna at 10.45 but on getting to Kaduna International Airport the pilot told us that he hadn't clearance from the airport to land and we kept circling for like 40minutes.
"We later gathered from the report that the landing gear developed fault immediately after take-off in Lagos. After take-off, the landing gear did not go back in, it entered a little, but not everything went in the way it was expected, so they continued flying thinking the landing gear would come out but unfortunately, it did not. The plane did not land on the tarmark but on the runway and at a point, the plane almost swayed into the bush and it started smelling smoke. But thank God, the plane did not catch fire.
"Fire brigade officials quickly poured water on the plane so that it does catch fire and the passengers prayed continuously. The plane was not opened immediately because the airport officials said it has a lot of air in it and if the doors are opened, it might cause a fire.
"So we stayed in the plane for about 10 minutes before the air was let out and passengers came down from the plane. We were instructed to run into the bush before a vehicle came and took us to the arrival."