A Nigerian Air Force L-39 trainer and light attack jet has crashed whilst on a routine training mission, but both pilots managed to eject safely.
The aircraft, from 303 Flying Training School at Kano, came down near Uyo airport in Akwa Ibom State on Friday. Both pilots ejected safely.
Captain Jari Williams, managing director of Ibom Airport Development Company Limited, on Sunday said that the Akwa Ibom International Airport (AKIA) and the Margaret Ekpo International Airport (MEIA), Calabar, were jointly earmarked as the operation zone for this year’s Staff Continuity Training Exercise & Sports Week of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), which the L-39 was taking part in.
“The preliminary exercise commenced at the AKIA on Tuesday 25th October, 2011 and has been very successful in the last three days. On Friday 28th October, 2011, seven NAF airplanes departed MEIA en-route AKIA out of which six landed safely. Unfortunately, at 19.09 hours, one of the aircraft with two pilots on board crash-landed 1,100 meters from Runway 21. The AKIA aerodrome rescue and fire fighting safety team on activation responded promptly to the incident.
“Meanwhile, no damage to the AKIA facilities has been recorded. The two pilots are hale and hearty and currently under observation as a matter of procedure.
“In a swift reaction, the management of AKIA has notified NCAA of the incident and the Director General, NCAA, having confirmed that the incident was off-site the airport facilities with no recorded damage to airport facilities, has given clearance for continuous flight operations into and out of the AKIA.
“The management of AKIA wishes to assure the flying public that AKIA is safe for flight operations in line with our current certification”.
Air Marshall Mohammed Dikko Umar, Chief of Air Staff, said that investigators are looking into the cause of the crash.
Nigeria received 24 Aero Vodochody L-39ZA armed trainers between 1986 and 1987. This year the Budget Office allocated funding for a number of Air Force projects, including the allocation of funding for the reactivation of 15 L-39ZAs and six of the Nigerian Air Force’s 24 Alpha Jets.
The Air Force also has a dozen Aermacchi MB-339 jet trainers in service, which were modernised by Alenia under a 2006 contract. MB-339s are used for the basic training of fighter pilots, but together with the L-39ZAs they can be pressed into service as attack aircraft if the need arises.