The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has barred engineers from going near Delta Air’s aircraft that made an emergency landing when the crew noticed fire on the left engine of the A330-200 airplane. Also, Commissioner, AIB, Akin Olateru, has equally directed that the crew of the aborted flight should not leave the country until they are interviewed to know exactly what happened to the airplane with registration N858NW. He said when situations like that occurred, the accident investigative body normally takes possession of the aircraft and ensures nobody goes near it.

Olateru said: “The aircraft is under safety investigation. That is what is required by law until they make a formal report. I was made to understand they have appointed two investigators to work with us and they should be arriving this afternoon (yesterday).”

At about 21.52UTC on Tuesday, Delta Airline Flight DL 55, an A330-200, that departed Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos with 219 passengers on board made an emergency landing at 21.59p.m. local time after the left engine of the aircraft caught fire mid-air in-flight.

The pilot of the aircraft, who noticed that the left engine had caught fire, immediately contacted the control tower at the Lagos airport to prepare for emergency landing.

Emergency aviation officials were immediately contacted and firefighters placed on standby. After landing successfully, all the passengers aboard were quickly evacuated via the emergency sliding door within a few minutes.

Also, the passengers were taken to a hotel after the flight was cancelled and rescheduled for a date yet-to-be specified and communicated.

Although no deaths were recorded, five passengers were injured during the evacuation and were said to have been taken to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Air Force Base Clinic and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Medical Centre for speedy medical attention.

The incident led to the closure of the runway, thereby preventing KLM, Lufthansa and Air France already positioned for take-off from departing.

Olateru, while briefing the media, said Delta Air had flouted regulations by not notifying the agency by 3 p.m. on Wednesday, being the country of occurrence in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 13.

His words: “I have insisted that we must interview the crew. We need to know what happened. I got a call too that they want to travel and told them they cannot leave. We have a responsibility. They are still in Nigeria.

“I have made it clear to them; they cannot go until we take their statement. We have an obligation under the law and we are here to defend that obligation. What Delta has done is to satisfy their own regulations and laws by reporting to the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), failing to respect our own law and regulations.

“This afternoon, we got information that their engineers wanted to work on the aeroplane and we made it clear to them it was not possible. We told them that nobody should go near the aircraft. The best we can do is to safeguard it. Security people are guarding the aircraft.

Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Usman Muhtar, described the development as “serious incident”.

Muhtar disclosed that the captain of the aircraft declared May Day, a sign of possible crash in an event where all preventive measures no longer work.

Muhtar said both NCAA and AIB officials had paid an inspection visit to the site in line with their statutory responsibilities.

He said: “From what we saw, it is a serious incident, and by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards and also in line with the Act that set up the AIB, they will be investigating the incident.”

Written by Wole Shadare for New Telegraph