Exactly 17 years ago today, on Saturday, October 22, 2005, Bellview Airlines Flight 210 crashed shortly after taking off, killing 117 passengers and crew. The aircraft involved in the incident was a 24-year-old Boeing 737-200 with the registration 5N-BFN that Lagos-based Bellview Airlines had acquired from Frontier Airlines in 2003.

Route Map Bellview

Image: GCmaps

In early 2005, maintenance on the plane was carried out by Royal Air Maroc in Morocco and by Bellview Airlines Engineers at Lagos just before the crash. The plane had logged 55,000 flight hours at the time of the accident. In charge of the flight was Captain Imasuen Lambert, an experienced pilot with 13,429 flight hours, of which 1053 were on the Boeing 737. The Captain was assisted by Ghanaian First Officer Eshun Ernest, who had 762 flight hours, of which 451 were on the 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 regularly scheduled flight between Abuja, Nigeria, to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, with stops in Lagos, Nigeria, and Accra, Ghana. Flight 210 was the final leg of a one-day round trip, mainly uneventful 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 startup clearance at 19:17 local time and then taxied out to Runway 18L.

Air Traffic Control cleared the flight for 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, and this was 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 this without asking for an explanation.

The flight took off at 19:30, and was told by the controller to contact Lagos Approach Control. According to Abuja Tower, everything appeared to be normal. The pilots then contacted Lagos Approach Control which was the last contact anyone had with the plane. Now unable to contact the plane, the ATC controllers reported the plane as missing.

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The Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was notified and began a search and rescue mission deploying a helicopter to the site of the last contact. Police found the aircraft’s wreckage 27 miles from Lagos near a village in Ogun State. The plane had nose-dived into the ground, killing all 117 passengers and crew and creating a 30-foot-deep crater.

The investigation into the crash of Bellview Airlines Flight 210

The Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) took the lead, assisted by the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Because of the impact of the crash and looting that followed, the investigators could not recover the flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorder. With very little evidence to go on, they speculated that the crash could have been caused by the following:

  • Human error
  • Sabotage
  • Weather

At the time of the crash, storm cells were in the area leading to speculation that it could have suffered a lightning strike. At the same time, the public speculated that the plane was brought down to kill Waziri Mohammed, a close aide to then-Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. The FBI took wreckage from the aircraft but found no evidence of explosive residue.

To this day, uncertainty surrounds the crash of Bellview Airlines Flight 205.

Source: simpleflying.com

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