Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 was a chartered passenger flight scheduled to depart from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Sokoto, Nigeria. However on 11 July 1991, a Douglas DC-8 which was the plane serving this flight by nation air, crashed immediately after takeoff killing all 261 people on board. This included 247 passengers and 14 crew members. It is without a doubt the deadliest DC-8 crash to date.
The aircraft involved here was built in 1968, with a registration no. of C-QMXQ. It was, at the time owned by a Canadian company Nolisair but was operated by Nationair and leased by them to Nigeria airways. They however sub leased to another airline to facilitate the transportation of Nigerian pilgrims, to and from Mecca. William Allan the pilot in command and the first officer Kent Davidge were fairly seasoned pilots, having a combined total flight time of around twenty thousand hours. The DC-8 was also the primary aircraft used by the airline at that time.
The aircraft departed from King Abdul-Aziz International Airport, Jeddah and was bound for Sadiq Abu-Bakr lll International Airport. However shortly after takeoff problems were reported and the crew attempted to turn the plane around for an emergency landing. The plane caught fire midair and experienced a midair break up, causing the plane to plummet to the ground, only 3 kilometers from the runway. This crash is the second deadliest one to occur on Saudi soil, the deadliest being Saudi Flight 163.
It is reported that the lead mechanic of the aircraft had noticed a discrepancy in the tyre pressures of tyre no. two and four, but since nitrogen gas was not available readily and the manager did not want to have to deal with a delay, ordered the aircraft to proceed. It is suspected that the increased friction and pressure on the tyres was enough to create a self sustaining fire. The crew knew there was a problem, but were unaware of the seriousness of the issue. The landing gear helped spread the fire by bringing the burning rubber in close proximity with the electrical and hydraulic systems of the plane when it was retracted. This also resulted in the centre fuel tank catching fire which in turn burnt up the whole cabin.
While there is not much that can be done to fill the void that this incident left, a memorial for the incident has been built and is located at the head office for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority in Mississauga, Ontario. A group of Nationair flight attendants contributed to have this memorial built in remembrance to everyone that was lost that day. It includes a plaque and a cherry tree. This incident however laid the ground work for the demise of Nationair as, soon after this incident they were having severe financial issues and by 1993 the airlines had to be shut down. In 1997, Robert Obadiah, who was the owner of Nationair and its parent company Nolisair, pled guilty to fraud in the company’s activities on 8 counts.
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