Faulty Navigational Light Grounds Flights at Abuja Airport


By Chinedu Ezeh and Dele Ogbodo in Abuja

Faulty Instrument Landing System (ILS), which led to total blackout on the runway yesterday evening at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport NAIA, Abuja, grounded flight activities from and into the airport.

 While hundreds of passengers were still stranded at the airport as at 8 pm, THISDAY can confirmed that flights bound to land at the airport are making efforts to land at the Minna or other neighbouring airports closest to Abuja.

The several incidents of lack of power at the airport has been source of concern to aviation watchers.

A FAAN official who spoke on telephone to our correspondent on condition of anonymity said the airport is thrown into confusion because of the ILS which usually produce lights for plane to land. He added that the decision of the pilots not to land was the best thing to do as an attempt could be catastrophic.

Efforts to reach FAAN’s Spokesperson, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu proved abortive as her phone was not connecting as at press time.

 However the faulty ILS was rectified at 9pm, which paved way for incoming Aero and Arik flights to safely land while Azman airline was also able to take off without hitch.

Passengers who spoke though declined to mention their names commended pilots for taking safety precautions not to land in such hazy atmosphere.

In the aviation industry there is what is called redundancy for safety critical equipment both on the ground and in the aircraft.

What this means is that when there is a failure of equipment, there is alternative that will sustain the operation.

So the runway lighting should have alternatives so that when the main system is down, FAAN will trigger the redundancy system.

THISDAY learnt that four aircraft of Arik Air, one Medview Airline and others were on the ground, while two Arik flights were  in the air when the airfield lighting went off for about two hours.

A pilot told THISDAY that it would have been very critical if any of the aircraft in the situation had exhausted its fuel while waiting for the lights to be restored.

Industry experts said airfield lighting outage was very dangerous, especially in the night because it could lead to air crash and on the economic side, airlines would lose so much money on fuel, which exorbitant prices in Nigeria has already eroded the cost of operation for domestic carriers.

About two years ago there were frequent power outage on the runway lighting that the system was rehabilitated with assurance that it would not happen again.

Besides, it was expected that FAAN would have installed redundancies and at the event of cable breakdown which would cut off the lighting system, the redundancies would be triggered to provide lighting for flights to land and take off.

The consequence of the outages is the downgrading of the Abuja airport, which has been having technical challenges on its runway for several years, from undulating and poorly lighted runway to poor marking which leave pilots guessing at touch down.

It is hoped that the International Civil Aviation Orgaisation (ICAO) would not downgrade the airport to category 3 having recorded such protracted technical challenges.

Few months ago the same ICAO audited the airport and gave Nigeria a pass mark, ‎but airside infrastructure are very critical for safe landing and take-off of flights.