For the second time in 24 hours, first batch of Jigawa State Muslim pilgrims to this year’s pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia have been forced to make an emergency landing at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano, for alleged technical hitches.
The 559 pilgrims, on Wednesday, escaped a crash after a Max Air plane made a sudden return to same airport following a thunder strike. The Guardian gathered on Wednesday night that the Boeing 747 aircraft departed Nuhu Muhammad Sanusi International Airport, Dutse, at exactly 4:45 p.m. before returning suddenly to MAKIA.
The affected pilgrims are first batch of the 1,625 faithful to be airlifted for this year’s hajj exercise. The development, it was learnt, forced the airline to provide another plane for airlifting of the pilgrims. But the second also returned to Kano at about 5:00 a.m. yesterday, three and half hours into the journey.
However, management of the airline and officials of Jigawa State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board (JSPWB) have differed on the development. Spokesperson for Max Air in Kano, Bello Ramadan, while confirming lighting on windscreen of a co-pilot for Wednesday’s incident, he, nonetheless, declined to offer reasons for yesterday’s, insisting he was not aware.
He said: “The problem is not as much as the passengers are reporting. Some of them are panicking and reporting what did not happen. Some were even claiming that the plane caught fire, which is not true. As a matter of fact, the aircraft’s engine and tyres are in perfect condition.
“We have provided an alternative plane to continue the journey. The plane is about fuelling and the passengers are okay. Even though some of them are panicking, there is no cause for alarm.
“It was a thunder strike that affected the left side screen. Thank God it was mere scratch, and the pilot decided to return. Very soon, they will continue with the journey.
But the Executive Secretary of the pilgrims welfare board, Ahmed Umar Labbo, who confirmed both incidents, said after take-off from Kano, it was discovered the fuel might not be enough to successfully convey the pilgrims, hence the return for re-fuelling.
He clarified that the original airline for the exercise was Azman Air, adding that Max Air came into the picture when the former could not complete documentation with the Saudi authorities in time.
A Max Air official contradicted the inadequate fuel claim, insisting there was enough fuel to embark on the trip, but refused to give reason for the second return.