Almost five years after its rehabilitation, airplanes can now land after dusk at the domestic runway of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, known as Runway 18L.
Since 2008, the airfield had been closing at 6 pm daily, forcing domestic flights to line up and land at Runway 18R meant for international flights after 6 pm.
However, on Christmas Day, the airport recorded the first landing of flights on the runway after dusk.
This was made possible with the delivery of mobile airfield lighting to the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to facilitate the landing and take-off of airplanes on the runway after dusk.
The lights arrived on Allied Air, a cargo airline, on December 24. Before its arrival, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and other security agencies immediately signed off on pre-release documentation for its delivery and installation.
For years, the runway operated without airfield lighting, costing domestic airlines some N20 billion on extra fuel, wear and tear on the aircraft, and delays both in the air and during taxiing to the domestic terminal, MMA2 or the General Aviation Terminal (GAT).
Top officials of NAMA told THISDAY that the airfield lighting that was deployed would be remotely controlled and came in rechargeable trailer that is meant to last for 200 hours before it is due for recharge.
The lights got the approval of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annexe 14 and it is also compliant with the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority’s regulations.
According to a NAMA official, the advantages of the mobile airfield lighting include fast delivery, which suits the Nigerian environment; it is rechargeable and will remain in place in the interim until permanent airfield lighting is installed early in 2013.
The trailer contains 66 lights, which cover the whole length of the runway, with two trailers arriving last weekend for deployment in Lagos and at the Enugu Airport.
Three more trailers of lights are also expected in January and would be deployed in the Abuja, Kano and Yola airports.
The NAMA official confirmed that the mobile lighting, which is also known as emergency airfield lighting, would serve as alternatives to permanent lights until 2013.
To ensure that airfield runways at all the airports in the country do not suffer hiccups, government also plans to install solar power plants which the agency has already started installing at some airports.
In other parts of the world, runways and airfield lighting are built side-by-side. Similarly, when runways are rehabilitated, runway lighting is provided simultaneously, but in Nigeria they are done differently in all categories of airports.
Industry experts have often wondered why the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which was responsible for runways and lighting, and the Ministry of Aviation, awarded contracts for runway rehabilitation and installation of airfield lighting separately.