Passengers were aghast in fear on Wednesday when one of the emergency doors of the Dana Air aircraft conveying them fell off on landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Dana Air in a statement signed by its spokesman, Mr. Kingsley Ezenwa, however, said the door could not have fallen off without a conscious effort by a passenger to open it, assuring that the airline was investigating the incident.
He said: "We wish to state categorically that this could never have happened without a conscious effort by a passenger to open it. By design, the emergency exit door of our aircraft is plug-type backed by pressure, which ordinarily cannot fall off without tampering or conscious effort to open it by either a crew member or passenger.
"When an aircraft is airborne, it is fully pressurised and there was no way the seat or door could have been 'shaking' as insinuated. A thorough inspection was, however, carried out on the said aircraft upon landing in Abuja, by our engineers and a team from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and no issue was reported. There was also no threat to safety at any point.
"The flight was only delayed for eight minutes as we needed to demonstrate to the regulators that the safety and comfort of our guests (passengers) are at the centre of our operations. We wish to apologise to our guests for any inconvenience such report may have caused and for the slight delay on the return service to Lagos. A thorough investigation of the concerned passenger is ongoing."
THISDAY spoke to the Director General of NCAA, Captain Muhtar Usman, who said that the authority had commenced an investigation into the incident.
"We have commenced an investigation into the incident. It is through investigation that we will know what actually happened and to prevent such from happening again in the future. We have sent four inspectors to the airline to investigate what happened," Usman said.
THISDAY also spoke to a seasoned pilot who explained that the door could open without anybody fiddling with it, saying this is known as a component failure but dismissed the possibility of the emergency door falling off while the aircraft is airborne.
According to him, the fall might have been caused by a hard landing.
"What happened is likely to be a component failure due to a hard landing. It couldn't have fallen off when the aircraft was airborne because the aircraft cabin is pressurised. It is very difficult for that to happen but it could fall off when the aircraft is on the ground," the pilot said.
The General Manager, Corporate Affairs of NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, told THISDAY that the aircraft had been cleared to return to service.
"I want to confirm that the Authority's inspectors have certified and cleared the DANA Airlines incident plane to return to service. This came about after due repairs were carried out and it was certified fit for further operations," he said.