Exactly 17 years ago today, Saturday, October 22, 2005, Bellview Airlines Flight 210 crushed shortly after takeoff, killing 117 passengers and crew. The plane involved in the incident was a 24-year-old man Boeing 737-200 with registration 5N-BFN which Lagos-based Bellview Airlines acquired from Frontier Airlines in 2003.
In early 2005, maintenance of the aircraft was carried out by Royal Air Maroc in Morocco and by Bellview Airlines Engineers in Lagos just before the crash. The aircraft had logged 55,000 flight hours at the time of the accident. Captain Imasuen Lambert was in charge of the flight, an experienced pilot with 13,429 flying hours, including 1,053 on the Boeing 737. The captain was assisted by Ghanaian first officer Eshun Ernest, who had a total of 762 flying hours, including 451 on the Boeing 737 . Boeing 737. Also in the cockpit for the flight was Flight Engineer Steve Sani.
Flight 205 was a daily service between Abuja and Accra
Bellview Airlines Flight 210 was a scheduled flight between Abuja, Nigeria, to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, with stops in Lagos, Nigeria, and Accra, Ghana. Flight 210 was the last leg of a mostly uneventful day-long round trip until the fourth leg.
Now at Lagos-Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS), the crew prepared for the final leg of the journey to Abuja International Airport (ABV). The pilots requested a start clearance at 7:17 p.m. local time, then taxied to runway 18L.
Air traffic control cleared the flight to a cruising altitude of 25,000 feet with a right turn after takeoff. The pilots then asked to be able to turn left after takeoff, which they were granted. The tower then cleared the flight for takeoff, but the pilots had changed their minds asking to make a right turn rather than the left turn they had requested. The controller also granted it without asking for an explanation.
The flight took off at 7:30 p.m. and the controller told him to contact Lagos approach control. According to Abuja Tower, everything seemed normal. The pilots then contacted Lagos Approach Control, which was the last contact anyone had with the aircraft. Now unable to contact the aircraft, the ATC controllers reported the aircraft as missing.
The Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was notified and launched a search and rescue mission by deploying a helicopter to the site of the last contact. Police found the wreckage of the plane 27 miles from Lagos near a village in Ogun State. The plane nose-dived into the ground, killing all 117 passengers and crew and creating a crater 30 feet deep.
Bellview Airlines Flight 210 Crash Investigation
The Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) took the lead, assisted by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Due to the impact of the crash and subsequent looting, investigators were unable to recover the flight data recorders and the cockpit voice recorder. With very little evidence, they speculated that the accident could have been caused by the following:
- Human error
At the time of the accident, storm cells were in the area, suggesting that it could have suffered a lightning strike. At the same time, the public speculated that the plane was shot down to kill Waziri Mohammed, a close aide to then Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. The FBI took the wreckage of the plane but found no evidence of explosive residue.
To this day, uncertainty surrounds the crash of Bellview Airlines Flight 205.