Over two weeks after Dana Air Flight 992 crashed in Lagos killing 163 people, families of the deceased are yet to recover from the shock. Still in tears are the friends, families and well-wishers of the co-pilot, Capt Mahendra Singh Rathore, an Indian, who assisted Capt Peter Waxtan on the tragic flight.
Capt Rathore, popularly called the ‘cheerful pilot’ by friends and colleagues, was the man that did most of the communication with Air Traffic Control and officials of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) stationed at the radar room at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Ikeja, Lagos. Capt Rathore’s voice was quite clear judging from the transcript of the communication by the crew and the radar room, especially when the plane lost two engines and got negative response from the throttle.
As he communicated, his principal, Capt Waxtan, battled to control the MD 83 twin engine jet for landing on runway 18R that had been cleared for them. His last words were “good day” before the airplane descended rapidly and later crashed into residential buildings in Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos. He joined Dana Air in November 2010 and was type-rated on the MD 83. He has over 800 flying hours.
The family of Capt. Rathore reside overseas, but he lived in the company’s guest house in Lagos. His colleagues in other airlines referred to him as a caring man, who always made people happy. Tony Usidamen of Dana Air described him as a cheerful and loving person. “My brother, I had an excellent relationship with him. He’s caring. He likes to see people happy and always willing to share in your pains. He’s a complete gentleman and we’re still mourning him”, he said.
For Joy, a cabin crew with Air Nigeria, “Rathore is a courageous and lovely person. If you’re in pain, he tries his best to console you. He’s adorable and we’ll miss him. He makes people laugh.” Another official of MMA 2, Fred, described him thus: “Rathore is a rare gem. Very competent and passionate about the job.” He really loves his job. His death and others remain a deep pain. God knows the best”, he said tearfully.