A Medview flight with registration number VL 2122 (HK), which was originally scheduled to depart Abuja at 6.30 p.m on Tuesday to arrive Ilorin at 7.10 p.m same day, met with technical challenges that nearly brought to an abrupt end, lives of dozens of passengers onboard.
When the flight finally took off at about 1.33 a.m., more than 6 hours behind schedule, the Pilot, Capt. George Francis announced 40 minutes flying time to Ilorin.
Shortly after takeoff, the flight became bumpy with a lot of pitches, a sudden movement which made the aircraft to be moving up and down.
With persistent increased airspeed, the seat belt light permanently on, and no time for the crew members to serve refreshment, no one needed an expert to confirm the flight went through turbulence.
The pilot, however, displayed his expertise and experience in flying to the extent that passengers were not tensed.
Twice, the pilot reiterated that passengers and the crew members should remain seated.
The passengers, however, became curious after about an hour into the supposedly 40-minute flight, as there was no announcement of descending to Ilorin airport.
The pilot thereafter announced the challenges the crew had been facing.
He said due to poor visibility they missed the lane, the usual course to Ilorin and have to navigate through the North West Zone.
Ilorin is in North central zone of the country.
The pilot then assured the passengers that they had finally located the Ilorin airport and would be descending shortly.
The descent, though bumpy, was well managed by the pilot to achieve a near soft landing of the aircraft.
While taxing, the pilot called the attention of the passengers, particularly those on window seats to the lightings on the runway.
He said: “for those of you at the window, you will notice that the lighting on the runway by the left wing of the aircraft are working while those by the right wing are off.
“This happened some few minutes when we were descending.
“This could be dangerous because it is still raining here in Ilorin. We also have thunderstorm in Lagos, Abuja and Ilorin axis.
“Most of the navigational equipment in Ilorin are not functioning.’’
The whole drama when the passengers on the service were however informed early enough by the airline of the rescheduling of the flight via SMS and e-mail.
The message read: “Dear Valued customer, your flight Vl2122 from Abuja to Ilorin today, Dec.19, 2017 has been rescheduled to depart by 9:15 p.m due to operational reasons.
“We sincerely regret all inconveniences. Kindly contact us on 07082543952, 08183851135, 08066697400. Thank you.”
NAN reports that at 9.p.m, after passengers were checked in at the local departure hall of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, it was announced that the flight had been delayed for one hour 30 minutes.
The announcement did not go down well with many of the passengers who went to the departure counter to express their displeasure.
They were told that the flight which was coming to Abuja from Lagos for departure to Ilorin was delayed due to operational reasons.
A female passenger, who simply gave her name as Cathelene, said she had been at the airport since 4 p.m because she did not get the earlier message rescheduling the flight.
She said she discovered on getting to the airport that a digit was wrong in the phone number she used in booking for the flight.
The passengers who were patiently waiting for a new boarding time of 10.45 p.m, were again told that the flight has been delayed by one hour.
However, there was a little respite when at about 10.05, it was announced that a Medview airplane from Lagos arrived at the Abuja Airport.
The passengers who were now certain of departure were once again disappointed when another announcement came that the flight was delayed for another one hour owing to bad weather in Ilorin.
Upon inquiry at the departure counter, the passengers were told that it was raining in Ilorin.
At about 11 p.m, the airline offered free snacks pack of juice, biscuit and cake to the waiting passengers.
In the course of the delay, some passengers who could not bear the harrowing experience had to return to their homes.
One of the passengers who left in anger expressed disappointment for missing a crucial event in Ilorin, the purpose for which the flight was booked.
The passengers who spoke on condition of anonymity said the ideal thing for the airline to do after such delays was to make the flight optional for people on the service.
He said the airline ought to have announced that those who were still willing to wait should do so, while those who could not wait could reschedule or get refund of their booking.
More so, some of the passengers, who spoke to NAN at the baggage claim section of the airport, thanked God for safe arrival and commended the pilot for his expertise.
They called on the relevant authorities to address the poor state of infrastructure in the nation’s airports and the need to address the challenge of delay flights with stiff sanctions against airlines.
Meanwhile, two lawmakers who were scheduled board the plane to Ilorin for the official launch of Digital Switch Over, DSO, were forced to return to their Abuja homes in dead of night owing to the delay.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed made the disclosure in Ilorin during the DSO launch.
He said Sen. Suleiman Adokwe, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information and National Orientation and Hon. Segun Odebunmi, Chairman House Committee on Information and National Orientation, could have attended the event but for the flight delay.
The Minister apologised to the audience on behalf of the lawmakers.
“I want to make an apology.
“The apology I want to make is on behalf of the Chairman Senate committee on Information, Sen. Suleiman Adoke and Chairman House Committee on Information Hon. Odebunmi.
“Both of them had indicated their willingness to be with us this morning.
“As a matter of fact, they both left the airport in frustration at about 1 a.m. this (Wednesday) morning .
“The Medview Airline which they book to come did not depart until about 2 a.m,” the Minister said before reading his prepared speech for the event.