• Foreign airlines pulling out of Abuja to stem accidents
By Chinedu Eze
Airline operators have called on the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to avert imminent tragic accident by urgently rehabilitating the runways at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, which have degenerated over the years and are now damaging aircraft gears on landing and take-off.
The latest aircraft involved is a private jet with registration number VQBRZ, which landing gear was damaged at the domestic runway of the Lagos airport, R18L yesterday and Nigeria Air Force aircraft, C130, which lost tyre while landing on the same runway on Thursday under heavy downpour.
According to a passenger who was in that flight, on the same Thursday, an Air Peace flight, which landed on R18L in Lagos, known as international runway, at 10:35 pm “started vibrating terribly on landing, prompting the pilot to announce to the passengers that the vibration was caused by the bad nature of the runway.”
The operators are miffed that the defects at both runways, R18L and R18R at the Lagos airport and the only runway at the Abuja airport had been there for a long time without any effort by FAAN to rehabilitate the facilities.
On December 4, 2013 a Saudi Arabian cargo plane damaged its landing gear in a major incident at the Abuja airport runway, which led to the closure of the airport for several hours, from the night of December 4 to the evening of the following day. This resulted in flight disruptions and huge revenue losses for both domestic and international airlines.
In august 2016, there was also another major incident involving South Africa Airways flight that got damaged when it landed on the same Abuja airport runway, which forced the airline to cancel the flight and lodged the passengers in hotels for four days.
Recently, reports indicated that Emirates aircraft was also damaged when it landed on the same runway and it was one of the reasons the airline gave for stopping operation to Abuja airport.
Also other international airlines are considering pulling out of Abuja airport like Kenya Airways and Emirates because of the dangerous runway, which has become undulating and full of patches, as it had since past its life span about 10 years ago and there was aborted plan to build a second runway in 2010.
A source told THISDAY Friday that for the past three weeks the airline, which private jet was involved in that runway incident had been complaining about “the condition of Runway 18L to FAAN.”
“Even during runway inspection we noticed that that runway has become dangerous. If what happened to that aircraft happened to a schedule commercial airliner, the accident would have been tragic and because of the damage on the landing gear, it would have lost control and entered the bush. Yesterday night (Thursday) NAF guys had a burst tyre on the runway when it was raining. The Air Force jet on landing picked metals on the runway, which is no more smooth so pebbles and metals can be wedged by rough asphalts, but FAAN officials claimed they swept the runway twice before the flight,” informed source told THISDAY.
THISDAY spoke to the acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN; Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu who said the agency had plans to rehabilitate the runway but has been waiting for the rain to stop before work would commence.
“You will soon receive a press statement informing you about the exact date work will commence. FAAN appreciates your concern,” Mrs. Yakubu said.