There was palpable tension on board an Arik Air Dash 8 Q400 aircraft on March 6, 2018, as an undetected source of smoke in the aircraft cabin forced the pilot in command of the flight to declare emergency 81 nautical miles to the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana.
The confusion that enveloped passengers on board was triggered by the failure of the oxygen masks to deploy after the crew on board tried to calm down passengers, who had gone into prayer sessions as the smoke escalated.
A passenger, who sent the incident message on social media said the cabin crew issued them serviette to cover their noses to avoid being choked by the smoke.
The passenger recounted his experience thus: "I boarded Arik air flight W3304 to Accra on Tuesday 06/03/2018. The name of the aircraft is STEPHEN. It was a Dash 8 NextGen propeller aircraft. The flight took off precisely 7.20pm (Lagos time) 35 minutes into the 55 minutes flight, I started perceiving something smelling like a burning stuff."
“Shortly after the guy sitting next to me asked if I perceived any smell of burning stuff and that confirmed my worst fears. Before you could say jack, smoke had filled the cabin. The air hostesses were busy scampering around opening the cabins and the lavatories to check if they could trace the source of the smoke without success."
“While that continued, the oxygen masks that were always being advertised during the safety demo prior to take-off couldn't be released instead we were handed tissue papers (otherwise called services) to use to cover our noses to minimize and filter out possible carbon monoxide inhalation."
“About 5 minutes after, precisely with 15 minutes of flight time remaining, the pilot came on the public address system to inform us that they have smoke coming into the cabin and that they don't know the source and that they have DECLARED EMERGENCY.”
“At that point, we knew that our lives were only in God's hands. Everyone prayed to his/her Gods."
“To the glory of God, the flight successfully landed by 8.15pm (7.15pm Accra time) to the waiting of several fire service trucks at Kotoko International airport, Accra."
“We were evacuated into a waiting bus with instruction to leave everything behind in the cabin. Sadly there was no Arik official to address us neither was there any manner of first aid attention given to the passengers to manage stress and possible elevated blood pressures."
“After a while, our cabin luggage was brought to us and we had to leave from there to go through the Ghana immigration to our individual destinations."
“I'm highly discouraged that this near crash major incident was not reported in the media 2 days after (today is 08/03/2018) and I suspect a cover-up by Arik and the authorities. So I have chosen to use the social media to ensure this news gets out."
“Kindly keep forwarding this message till everybody is made aware of the quality and kind of services Arik air gives and the possible cover-ups before something terrible happens."
“If anyone is in doubt, I can be reached through email@example.com and I can provide my phone number for further verification.”
While confirming the incident, Arik Air on Friday gave clarifications on how unknown source of the smoke was detected in the cabin of its Dash 8 Q400 aircraft that was on flight W3 304 from Lagos to Accra on March 6, 2018, forcing the pilot in command to declare an emergency 81 nautical miles to airport of disembarkation.
According to its Public Relations and Communications Manager, Adebanji Ola, the pilot took the safety step in line with standard operating procedures.
Ola said the captain of the flight briefed the passengers accordingly assuring them that the aircraft was under control and safe for landing in Accra.
The aircraft, he said landed safely in Accra without further incident and all passengers disembarked normally.
He said: ”The aircraft is currently parked in Acrra and our team of engineers is conducting comprehensive inspections on the aircraft to ascertain the cause of the smoke, after which the aircraft will be flown without passengers to a maintenance facility for rectification and testing. The relevant aviation authorities in Ghana and Nigeria have been briefed appropriately on the incident.”