The state-run radio station also said many senior officials were on board the plane.

 

The aircraft, operated by Bellview Airlines, lost contact with the control tower five minutes after taking off at 8.45pm (2145 GMT) on Saturday, said Jide Ibinola, a spokesman for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria.  

 

"It has been confirmed in the early hours of this morning
that a Boeing 737 Bellview Airlines plane which took off from
Lagos ... has crashed. Some high level government officials are believed  to be on board," state radio said.

The airport authority official said the airliner was carrying 116 people - 110 passengers and six crew.

 

Distress call

Nigerian media had earlier said there were 114 people on board.
Their nationalities were not immediately known. 
 

"I don't think anyone could have survived if it went down over land"

Tidjani Bako,
Nigerian Maritime Authority official

Pilots issued a distress call before the plane disappeared from radar about 24km west of Lagos over the Atlantic Ocean, state television reported.

 

Ibinola said the craft had been heading to the capital, Abuja, and had not been located.

"We still do not have any concrete information of what became of the plane," Ibinola said.

'We have tried from neighbouring countries to see if the plane landed there, but
there's no such information."

 

No other details were immediately available.


Helicopter search

Initially, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said they suspected that the Bellview Airline Boeing 737 jet had plunged into the Atlantic as it looped round over the sea before turning north.


But Nigerian Maritime Authority official Tidjani Bako told AFP that the search was now concentrating inland, in an area between the cities of Ibadan and Ilorin, 100km northeast of Lagos.


"I don't think anyone could have survived if it went down over land," he said.


Nigerian police spokesman Emmanuel Ighodalo said: "We're still trying to find out where it happened. It can't be far from Lagos. Our search teams are out, we'll find it."

Most aircraft take off from Lagos, Nigeria's biggest city, in the direction of the Atlantic, and turn back towards the coast.

 

Private airline

Bellview is a privately owned Nigerian airline that operates a fleet of mostly Boeing 737s on internal routes and throughout West Africa.

 

Nigeria has a bad record for aviation safety and has been the scene of numerous crashes, including an accident in May 2002 when an airliner plunged into a suburb of Kano, killing 115 people on board and scores more on the ground.

  

There have been a number of recent near misses, including an incident in which an Air France jet arriving in the oil city of Port Harcourt from Paris hit a herd of cows.