Earlier this week, Governors of South-eastern states issued a statement describing the runway at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu as death trap.
This, according to reports, followed the complaint of a pilot that operated a charter flight to that destination.
In a quick reaction to the governors’ statement, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) dispatched its officials to inspect the runway. It was expected that defects detected on the runway would quickly be corrected to ensure that aircraft land and take off safely. Industry experts posit that one major area the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Airport Council International (ACI) look at before granting certification for an airport is the safety of the runway. The experts noted that airport runway must meet international safety regulation before regional and inter-regional flights are allowed to take place from an airport.
In Nigeria, airline operators said the major problem with many of the airport runways is the inability to regularly maintain them and to ensure they meet the expected safety standards. Such challenges stem from the fact that there may not be professionals with highly skilled manpower to manage these runways.
An engineer in FAAN recently told THISDAY that one of the major challenges in air transport is the safety of the aircraft on landing and take-off, which experts define as the most critical aspects of flight operations.
At landing, aircraft can overshoot or skid off the runway during the rains, so there are measures taken to ensure that at landing aircraft have grip on the runway.
A recent incident when Dana Air flight landed and overshot the runway at the Port Harcourt International Airport is one example of what could happen on runways.
The FAAN official said aircraft tyres could lose grip of the runway surface. According to the regulation on runway safety, there should be aircraft landing surface friction, which means that there is need to ensure that the runway has friction that can grip aircraft tyres at landing. To ensure that the runway provides surface grip for aircraft tyres, Surface Friction Tests are carried out on a runway or a helideck to verify the value of friction on its surface. This frictional value informs the ability of the aircraft or helicopter to safely land without exceeding the surface provided.
There are not many companies that specialise in providing such service, but in recent times an aviation company Rovaty Aviation Nigeria Limited has taken to providing surface friction test solutions and other aviation industry services.
Rovaty Aviation Nigeria Limited is a service provider for bespoke aviation solutions, including providing runway safety. The company said it has garnered years of experience from its involvement in providing this special service which has made it a highly sought-after company for runway safety in the whole of West Africa.
The company said it is currently the only Nigerian organisation that provides runway and helideck surface friction test service. Partnering with ASFT Industries of Sweden (for technical support) her services are multifaceted.
Rovaty Aviation said it is equipped with compliant vehicle integrated friction test equipment for runways and also equipped with T2GO test equipment for helidecks, both types of equipment being International Civil Aviation Organisation and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Regulation (NCAA) compliant and manufactured by her partner ASFT Industries of Sweden. With this equipment, the company keeps building capacity to proffer more solutions in this safety critical aspect of aviation operation.
Regularly runways are subjected to frequent assessment to ensure that their safety worthiness. The interval for runway surface friction assessments in accordance with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority advisory circular NCAA-AC-ARD014 is based on the number of landings at the runway per day. The annual test is recommended for 0 to 15 landings per day.
The company explained that frictional values of new or repaired/maintained runway surface are required before commissioning or returning it to service.
Helideck surface friction assessment is carried out annually, before commissioning of a new build or following painting or repairs.
Regular or scheduled runway surface friction measurement/tests are critical as they provide the necessary data to maintain adequate frictional value to eliminate or reduce runway overshoot/excursion related incidents or accident and ultimately saves lives.
Rovaty Aviation said it appreciated the opportunity to partner with airport/aerodrome operators in Nigeria and West Africa to improve the overall safety of aviation operation.
Airport managers in the West Africa sub-region patronise the company, which for now, is the only indigenous organisation that keeps the airport runways in Nigeria and West Africa in tandem with recommended safety standard.