Although it took seven months for the truth of the aircraft to come out, and the fate of the pilot, Capt. Augustine Egbedi, his co-pilot, Mohammed Tango, and Standardization Officer, Miss Fubrata Jack to be known many tales had already regaled the country and globe.
There were tales of abductions, flight diversions into Cameroon, seized aircraft, crash and others like it, and these sensations went on for many months with every Tom, Dick and Harry spinning their own conspiracy theory while the families of the crew hoped even against hope.
The Beechcraft 1900 aircraft with three crew members on board which got missing took off from Lagos early 7:36am on Saturday and had its last contact with Enugu Control Tower at 8.46am, on the one hour and 15 minutes journey. It however never got to its destination, Obudu, Cross River State.
This put the entire country on high alert as the aircraft just vanished like it entered the Bermuda Triangle despite efforts to track it, months passed before the aircraft was finally found
During the heat of the vanishing, the then managing director of the airline, Captain Nogie Meggison, said only three crew members were on board the aircraft which was on a routine flight to Obudu.
He said in the statement,” We have alerted the relevant aviation agencies including Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency.
”Other security agencies including the police and military have also been contacted and an intensive air and land search operation is going on along the flight path. However, as at this time we do not have any information on the whereabouts of the aircraft.”
The statement said the said aircraft, which has been the aircraft of choice for charter flights by several high net worth clients and companies, was in perfect condition as at the time the flight was operated.
‘We are hopeful that the aircraft and crew will be found in the shortest possible time,” the statement added.
However, after that statement, glut in information began to lead to numerous speculations about the aircraft given that the owner was the then Delta State Governor, James Onanefe Ibori who at that time was not on cordial terms with the centre.
One of the many false report instigated in the media included that the Beechcraft 1900D plane was flown out of the country on March 15 and was declared missing by authorities to cover its track for some serious malfeasance.
The report from a national daily had quoted sources in the aviation sector who said the plane might have been flown out of the country through an unconventional route.
It also alleged to a cover-up because as it revealed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had wanted to impound the said plane shortly after the May 29, 2007 handover of power by President Olusegun Obasanjo, but was stopped due to what was described as political exigencies.
Air traffic control documentation was also referred to, to give credence to the report relating to the missing plane, stating that the pilot was discovered to have flown from Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos via route 609 which took him to Benin and to connect Enugu while heading to Bebi/Obudu airstrip on the fateful day.
Finding the Beechcraft 1900D
However, seven (7) months later, on August 30, 2008, hunters found the wreckage in thick rain forest in Bushi Village, Obanliku local government area damaged beyond repair while its three occupants were already decomposed.
Investigation showed that the Beech 1900D airplane took off from Lagos at 07.36 en route to Obudu. It was expected to arrive at Bebi Airstrip at approximately 09:21. The aircraft contacted Enugu ATC at 08:56 while descending to FL110. The crew was cleared to descend further down to 5000 feet. It did not arrive at Bebi Airstrip and was declared missing.
Investigation also revealed that the Enugu tower controller issued descent instructions to 5, 000 feet AMSL (FL50) outside its control airspace not considering that the aircraft was not flying the filed flight plan route and the minimum safe altitude (MSA) of the area reported by Jeppesen charts as 11,200 feet.
Causal Factor by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) also revealed that the flight crew conducted an approach into a VFR airfield in an instrument meteorological condition and did not maintain terrain clearance and minimum safe altitude which led to Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).
- The crew did not respond promptly to GPWS warning.
Contributory factors included that the flight crew was not familiar with the route in a situation of low clouds, poor visibility and mountainous terrain, the Area Controllers did not detect the estimate as passed by the pilot for positions not in the flight plan (LIPAR and LUNDO) filed and omitting Enugu as well as the erroneous co-location of Bebi airstrip and Obudu on the NAMA Chart confused the crew.