By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Tarkaa David, Ejike Ejike, IGHO OYOYO, Blessing Bature-Akpakpan, Abuja and ABU NMODU, Minna
The ill-fated Nigerian Air Force aircraft that crashed about 15 minutes after take-off from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was on surveillance mission to Kagara Minna, the Niger State capital, for a rescue of the recently abducted schoolchildren and teachers in the state.
The King Air 350, NAF201 B350, crashed after reporting an engine failure minutes after it took off.
Minna is about 110km (69 miles) North West of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, who stated this when he led some top security heads to the crash site, confirmed that the plane crashed while trying to land at the Abuja airport after reporting engine failure enroute Minna where it was scheduled to conduct surveillance missions over Niger State and its environs.
He said the mission was in connection with the concerted efforts to secure the release of the students/staff abducted from the Government Science College Kagara, Niger State.
Specifically, he said the Beechcraft KingAir B350i (NAF 201) crashed while returning to the Abuja airport after reporting engine failure enroute Minna, where it was scheduled to conduct surveillance missions over Niger State and its environs in connection with the concerted efforts to secure the release of the students/staff abducted from the Government Science College Kagara.
Amao who visited the scene of the accident in company of the minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (retired); minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika; Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Lucky Irabor, and other service chiefs commiserated with the families of the deceased personnel and prayed that the Almighty God grants their souls eternal repose.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force has released the identity of the seven NAF personnel involved in the crash after notifying their next of kins.
AVM Ibikunle Daramola named the personnel to include Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama (Captain), Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo (Co-Pilot), Flying Officer Micheal Okpara (Airborne Tactical Observation System (ATOS) Specialist), Warrant Officer Bassey Etim (ATOS Specialist), Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi (ATOS Specialist), Sergeant Ugochukwu Oluka (ATOS Specialist) and Aircraftman Adewale Johnson (Onboard Technician).
Amao had earlier ordered an investigation into the cause of crash.
The director of public relations and information, Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola, in a statement confirming the incident said the aircraft crashed while returning to Abuja Airport after reporting engine failure.
He said, “This is to confirm that a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft crashed while returning to the Abuja Airport after reporting engine failure enrout e Minna.
“First responders are at the scene. Sadly, all 7 personnel on board died in the crash. The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident.
“While urging the general public to remain calm and await the outcome of investigation, the CAS, on behalf of all NAF personnel, commiserates with the families of the deceased.”
History Of Beechcraft King Air 350i
In August, 2014, the Nigeria Air force took delivery of three Beechcraft King Air 350i. The King Air 350i is a twin turboprop aircraft produced by Beechcraft which is now part of Textron aviation.
The price of a new King Air 350i is currently about $8m. Prices on second hand crafts vary, depending on the level of use, maintenance, record keeping and upkeep. KingAir 350i cabin
The main cabin is 19ft 6in (5.94m) long and 57in (1.45m) high. While it can be configured to carry up to 11 passengers, it is typically configured to carry eight passengers in a business club seating.
On board, wifi is standard and there’s the Rockwell Collins Venue CMS and in-flight entertainment (IFE) system to make flights productive and entertaining.
The latest King Airs also have improved soundproofing to reduce the cabin noise from the turboprop engines.
The two Pratt and Whitney PT6A-60A engines produce 1050 hp, and give a max cruise speed of 312 ktas (578 km/h). The maximum range is 1,806nm (3,345km), or with a full complement of eight passengers it’s possible to go nearly 1,500nm. There’s 55 cu ft of onboard pressurized baggage space at the back of the cabin, with an additional 16 cu ft of external baggage space. The takeoff field length is just 3,300 ft. The King Air is single pilot certified. It comes equipped with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite, which is the same suite as found in many light and mid-size jets.
PMB, Lawan, Gov Sani-Bello Mourn
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello of Niger State and some prominent Nigerians have expressed sadness over the fatal crash of Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft that claimed the lives of seven personnel in Abuja.
On behalf of the federal government, President Buhari in a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, extended heartfelt condolences to family members, friends and colleagues of those who died as a result of this tragedy.
The president joined the Nigerian Air Force, the military and other Nigerians in mourning the unfortunate loss of the dedicated and courageous personnel, who died in the line of duty.
President Buhari noted that while investigations into the cause of the crash were ongoing, the safety of the Nigerian airspace remains a key priority of the government.
He prayed God to comfort the bereaved families and nation, and grant the souls of the departed peaceful rest.
Also, president of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, expressed shock and sadness over the crash, even as he condoled with the families of those killed in the accident and prayed that Allah would comfort them in this time of grief.
Niger State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, also expressed sadness over the crash of the Aircraft.
Bello in a statement said the incident is unfortunate and tragic adding that, “It is a setback to the Military now that the security forces are being overstretched due to security challenges confronting Niger State at the moment and the country at large”.
The House of Representatives committee on Air force also commiserated with the Nigerian Airforce and families of the victims of crash.
In a statement by the committee signed by its chairman, Hon Shehu Koko, said he witnessed the incident along with the Chief of Air staff and promised that investigation will begin in earnest to determine the remote cause.
Similarly, the minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, called for calm as the ministry and the military continue investigation into the cause of the crash of NAF Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft.
The minister, while reacting to the crash, said, “A military aircraft King Air 350 has just crashed short of our Abuja runway after reporting engine failure enroute Minna. It appears to be fatal. We should remain calm and wait for the outcome of investigation by the military, while we pray for the departed soul/souls if any.”
Also, the minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Sadiya Umar Farouq, expressed deep sorrow following the crash of a Nigerian Air Force Beechcraft KingAir B350i Aircraft on Sunday in Abuja.
Special adviser on media to the minister, Nneka Ikem Anibeze, in a statement said, “I am deeply shocked and saddened by this tragic occurrence. I sympathize with the Nigerian Airforce and the families of those who lost their lives in the crash.”