Lufthansa Air on Tuesday said no passenger was injured on its Frankfurt-bound flight on Sunday.
A statement by the airline’s spokesperson in Nigeria, Hakeem Jimo, said what happened was a mere ‘moderate turbulence’.
Recall that passengers on the flight had said they were ”thrown into despair” when the plane suddenly came down from 35,000 feet to about 5,000 feet midair, an hour after take-off in Abuja.
A passenger told this newspaper that when the incident occurred suddenly, ”many fell down and some were injured in the process.”
But Mr. Jimo said safety on the aircraft was never compromised as passengers had their seat-belts on at the time of the incident.
“We can confirm that on flight LH595 last Sunday (18 FEB) from Abuja to Frankfurt, a brief weather-related turbulence was experienced,” he said in a press statement sent on Tuesday afternoon.
“The Airbus A330 aircraft took off in Abuja at 23:13 with 197 passengers on board and landed at 5:17 in Frankfurt as planned (all times local). After take-off in Abuja, there was moderate turbulence during the ascent for a few seconds due to bad weather.
“At that time, since the seat-belt signs were still on, all guests and the crew members were safely seated with their seatbelts fastened. Safety on board was never compromised. No passengers or crew members were injured. The flight continued normally.”
An aviation expert, John Ojikutu, said that the incident occurred due to the state of the weather condition, saying erratic turbulence could be the immediate cause.
Speaking on Tuesday evening, he said, “There are many conditions that can make an aircraft descend. The aircraft can descend because of technical issue, (if) the air up there, the compressed air… has dropped. So it had to descend to a level where it can get oxygen; that’s about anything below 10,000 feet to have sufficient oxygen so that everyone can breathe properly.
“The other one can be due to bad weather, erratic turbulent bad weather. So the pilot can descend on his own because the cabin pressure is not there and they want the passengers to breathe properly, he can descend below 10,000 feet.”
Mr. Ojikutu, a member of the think-tank group. Aviation Round Table, however, noted that how the situation was handled mattered as far as safety of the passengers is concerned.
“The most important thing is: was it handled properly? If everybody is alive it means the pilot handled it properly if it is weather. They should be grateful to the pilot that he was able to handle it.
“Lufthansa is one of the safest airlines. When you are flying over the desert during this hot weather, you may encounter ‘clear air turbulence’, it does happen. So if the pilot did not stop, he didn’t land… I don’t think there is any problem. The ‘clear air turbulence’ is as bad as you running into thunderstorm turbulence.
“People are used to flying; if they are used to flying, they will know. It is ‘clear air turbulence’.”