Lagos — Last Saturday's hard landing of a Max Air plane conveying 560 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia at Minna International Airport has generated controversy over the cause of the incident.
However, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) which classified the hard landing as "a serious incident" has cautioned against speculating on the cause as its investigators have commenced investigation to find out the immediate and remote causes of the incident which caused panic at the airport.
Many media reports suggested the aircraft with registration No. 5N-DBK which took off from the King Abdul-Aziz International Airport, Jeddah, crash-landed at the airport though all the passengers and 19 crew members were safely evacuated.
But the chairman of the airline, Dahiru Mangal, in a statement signed by the Director of Flights Operations, Capt. Ibrahim Dili, refuted the claim that the plane crash-landed. The bone of contention which is generating interest in the sector is the statement by Max Air claiming the incident was caused by weather and lack of runway light known as Instrument Landing System (ILS).
Stakeholders query the claim of the airline which they say amounted to pre-empting the outcome of the investigation, as it is only the AIB, which had done its due diligence by dispatching investigators to the scene immediately it was notified, that has the power to speak on the cause of the incident.
"Our aircraft never developed any engine problems, rather the weather at the airport and the lack of runway light forced us to safe land," Max Air said.
But the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) punctured the claim by Max Air that the Instrument Landing System (ILS) at the Minna International Airport was not functional.
Spokesman of NAMA, Khalid Emele, explained that the ILS at Minna airport remained serviceable contrary to the claim by Max Air.
NAMA faulted the statement by Max Air that the ILS at the airport was "epileptic with unreliable signals."
It said, "While we acknowledge that we have absolute confidence in the ability of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to conduct a thorough investigation (which is ongoing), we are constrained to however put things in proper perspective for the benefit of our airspace users and the flying public.
"The reported weather on the day in question was 10km visibility in nil weather.
"Secondly, the said Instrument Landing System was successfully calibrated early this year (2019) and there has been no report of non-alignment by the equipment from pilots since then. Other operators that have used the facility after the incident have not complained about the ILS malfunctioning."
But all eyes are on the preliminary report of AIB which would clear the air on the actual cause of the incident.
AIB said: "From the information provided, the aircraft on landing scraped the runway while the number one engine brushed the runway surface and no injury was recorded."
It reiterated that its team of investigators has already commenced investigation and solicited assistance from members of the public for any information or evidence that could aid the work.
The bureau also advised against speculating on the cause of the incident.