The Crotchet’s Corner

My perspective about all things inconsequential

Flying coffins

“Hot and high, hot and high” were the words that screamed through my mind as the Okada Air Boeing 727 made its final approach to Lagos airport.

 

(In aviation parlance, “hot” means that the aircraft is making a landing approach that is too fast, and “high” refers to it being too high above the glide path. Since the only way to increase the rate of descent is to increase speed, and the plane is already too fast, it is almost certain that there will be a botched landing approach.)

 

Seated by the window, I could see that we were in trouble.

 

The aircraft bounced up and down a few times, as the pilot slammed it down hard on the deck and stood on his brakes. I could hear the engines howl as furious reverse thrust was applied, and the plane ate up precious runway before finally coming to a juddering halt.

 

Flying is something I enjoy, but my knees quaked as I staggered off the aircraft in a state of some shock – it was a close shave.

 

African airlines have a terrible safety record – four takeoffs in every million result in an aircraft becoming unusable as a result of an accident, one of the worst in the world (the world average is 1.3). Chronically under-funded, they, often, fly old, ramshackle aircraft, and poor maintenance, absence of proper safety checks, and shortage of spares means that passengers climb on board with a prayer. There are very few exceptions such as South African Airways, Ethiopian and Kenya Airways, but most others are a dicey proposition.

 

It could be that there is inept management, poor training of pilots and ground crew, and corruption. Whatever the reason, it is scary.

 

I once heard a Nigerian query whether it was safer to travel by road on one of the country’s notoriously crime-ridden highways instead of travelling by one of the “flying coffins”.

 

I never flew Okada ever again, and heard some years later that its licence had been revoked and planes grounded. It was one of Africa’s largest private carriers.

Okada aircraft parked at Benin airport

Okada aircraft parked at Benin airport

 

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March 14, 2009 - Posted by | About this and that, Aviation | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I will never forget my first (and last) Okada Air-Flights from Lagos to Port Harcourt and retour … Shaky Flights, the Carry-folds opened by itself during the flight … Horrible!

    Like

    Comment by Christian | January 14, 2010 | Reply


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