‘Why Nigerian Airports Are Unviable’

CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi

Chinedu Eze

The Chief Operating Officer of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, has said the reason why Nigerian airports are not generating enough funds that can be used for their maintenance is because they are not commercially viable.

Sanusi, who spoke to THISDAY, in an exclusive interview, said political, rather than economic consideration, was the major reason why some airports in Nigeria are built.

However, he noted the importance of having many airports in the country because of its size. This, he said, would facilitate quicker connection between one part of the country to another.

But, he insisted that in building such airports, their commercial viability should be a critical factor in considering where such airports should be located.

The Aero CEO also talked about creating business centres at airports by establishing non-aeronautical enterprises to attract both users and non-users to seek and pay for services at the airports.

Sanusi, also emphasised that the landing aids and other critical facilities installed at an airport should be determined by its utility, noting that a runway where airplanes do not land in the night does not need night landing facilities.

“Every airport is supposed to be built based on commercial viability. Every landing instrument or lightening system in the airport must be based on commercial viability. If commercial airplanes don’t land at night in the airports, why will you go and invest between $2 million or $3 million there, which you will not use? So everything has to be commercially driven.

“We have about 26 airports in the country. Do we need these instruments in all the airports? No. This is because some of them are not commercially viable. Do we need to have the entire lighting systems for the airport? No because some of them are not going to be used for night operations but the ones that need to have lighting, then the lights must work and it must be 24 hours. The airport traffic system must sustain the lightening systems,” Sanusi said.

He said every airport should be judged by the volume of traffic it receives, saying that an international airport, which records high volume of traffic, especially in the night must have critical night landing facilities, which must be utilised in economically reasonable way so that it would not be a waste of resources.

Sanusi, said the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, remains the busiest airport in Nigeria and ought to have all the necessary facilities for safe flight operations all the time.

Recently the one of the two runways was installed with Category 3 Instrument Landing System (ILS), which enables aircraft to land and take off during low visibility, but was not in use because it was not calibrated, forcing some airlines to refuse to land at the airport and diverted their flights to neigbouring countries.

“You can’t have an international airport with one of the runways not having landing lights. You can’t have two runways and you have an international airport where you have said it is 24hours operations without lightening systems. If in a year you are going to have one week or month where you will need CAT III, then you will go back and look at your traffic and see how many flights in that one whole month are coming and how many flights will be affected if they don’t have that CAT III system.

“If the economics suggests that you need to make the investment, then you make the investment. If your airport does not have weather that requires CAT III, then you don’t need the CAT III. If it is for two days in a whole year that you have weather phenomena, you probably will not need that because it doesn’t show the commercial sense,” he said.

The Aero Boss said it cost money to maintain Category 3 equipment; so when not in need it could be degraded, as some countries do.

“We must also understand that there are lots of things that needs to be done to maintain a CAT III ILS. The pilots, the aircraft must be checked at regular times, the airports must be certified to do low visibility operations amongst others,” Sanuis added.