Passengers were petrified Thursday when smoke erupted in the lavatory of Abuja-bound Azman flight minutes after it was airborne from Lagos, forcing the pilot to return to the airport of departure.
The Azman Flight ZQ 2323 LOS ETD with about 135 passengers and six crew members, which took off at about 4:20 p.m. from the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos returned to base when the smoke spread into the cabin of the aircraft, sending passengers into panic.
Eyewitness account when the flight took off, a female passenger, about 24 years old, who wore a hijab, went to the lavatory and disposed of hot shisha charcoal in the dustbin and smoke erupted, wafting through the cabin and emitting an acrid smell.
A smoke detector alerted the crew, and a female cabin crew officer walked to the lavatory and put out the fire with fire extinguisher.
Thinking that the fire was subdued, the flight continued to gain altitude, but about 10 minutes later, smoke was seen again coming out of the lavatory and forced the Pilot in Command to abort the flight and returned to the Lagos Airport.
On touch down at the airport, fire fighters surrounded the aircraft while passengers were de-boarded.
The female passenger who was suspected to have caused the smoke was subjected to interrogation by Aviation Security (AVSEC) personnel.
“At first, the aircraft seemed to have been cleared. Fire Service and NCAA personnel have just finished inspection and audit of the aircraft and cleared it for flights. We have been told to wait for boarding any moment from now.
“An updated flight manifest has just been taken to the crew inside the aircraft. Many passengers declined to continue the journey with the same aircraft. I am ready to board though we are back into the terminal.
“We were told by the officials of the airline that NCAA was still carrying out integrity test on the aircraft. Not yet cleared to fly,” one of the passengers said.
Confirming the situation to Solacebase on Friday, Azman Air Services Limited General Manager, Alhaji Muhammad Lawal attributed the fault to Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria(FAAN) securities laxity as they fail to detect the shisha in the hand luggage of the passenger.
”Honestly, we are surprised that FAAN during checking did not discover that the passenger had shisha in her bag because of our own checking when boarding is for metal detection while FAAN security is supposed to ensure that passengers and their luggage pass-through scanner machine, ”said Alhaji Lawal.
The Director of Consumer Protection, NCAA, Adamu Abdullahi, who confirmed the incident, explained in a statement that the passengers were asked to disembark from the aircraft after the captain noticed a snag on aircraft with registration number 5N-HAI.
“After it was certified to fly again, the aircraft finally departed with 129 passengers on board; six passengers declined to board and were refunded.