Days after a TB-9 aircraft belonging to the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, was force-landed on Friday in Kaduna, the exact status of the aircraft is still unclear.
While the college said the aircraft made an emergency landing about 7nm north-west of Kaduna Airport, another report alleged that a few minutes after the aircraft made the forced landing, armed bandits attacked it and set it ablaze.
According to NCAT, both the pilot and the student were unhurt and have since returned to their base. The NCAT also noted that the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) was immediately notified of the incident.
Another report obtained from one of the Ministry of Transport, Aviation Unit, confirmed the setting ablaze of the trainee aircraft by armed bandits on landing.
A source, who declined to be quoted, said the college’s management had already informed Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation, of the incident, but everything is being kept under wraps.
A report had claimed that armed bandits operating in the North-West axis had set the aircraft on fire after it crash-landed at about 6.5 nautical miles from Kaduna airport. The aircraft had crash-landed in an area suspected to be a notorious haven of armed bandits and kidnappers who terrorise travellers and residents in Kaduna and Zamfara states.
The report noted that both the instructor and the student escaped unhurt with the support of residents of Buma Village in Sabon Birni, who rushed to the scene of the incident.
The source said before the aircraft crash-landed, it wobbled in the air for some time and few minutes after it crashed, armed bandits rushed to the scene and rained bullets on the aircraft and set it on fire, possibly thinking that it belonged to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
However, AIB in a statement Saturday night, confirmed the incident, but was silent on the status of the aircraft.
A statement by Tunji Oketunbi, the General Manager, Public Affairs, AIB, disclosed that the aircraft was on test flight at the time of the crash, adding that its investigators have been deployed to the crash site for further investigation.
The statement read: “On 1st March, 2019, AIB was notified of an accident of a Tampico (TB9) aircraft with nationality and registration marks 5N-CBP at Rumi forest, Sabo Birni, Birni Gwari Local Government Area, Kaduna State.
”The aircraft was on a test flight being conducted by a pilot and an engineer. The aircraft was force landed at 14:40pm as a result of an engine failure. There was no fatality after the forced landing.”
When our correspondent contacted Balarabe Abubakar, spokesman of the college, his phone was switched off, but one of the instructors in the college confirmed the burning of the aircraft.
”It is true that the aircraft was set ablaze by armed bandits. We have notified all the necessary agencies and the state government about this.”