FG, Angolan Govt in Talks for Release of Grounded Aircraft

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By Chinedu Eze

The federal government and the government of Angola have started talks over the release of its aircraft grounded at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, for flying illegally into the country.

Inside sources disclosed that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) may have received a letter from the National Security Adviser clearing the aircraft for departure but as at press time, the aircraft was still parked at the E Wing of the Lagos airport.

The aircraft, a Boeing 777 jet with registration number, D2TEH belongs to TAAG Angola, the country’s national carrier.

Reports indicated that the plane flew into the country without the requisite and mandatory approvals from concerned Nigerian authorities, but the crew of the aircraft claimed that it landed in the country to evacuate Angolan citizens in Nigeria even without prior authorisation to do so.

Although NCAA and the Ministry of Aviation are mum about the incident, air traffic control of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) told THISDAY that aircraft without necessary approvals could be allowed to land in Nigeria if the pilot claims that he had been permitted to land or in the case of emergency.

The TAAG Angola flight crew may have believed that it had been permitted to land, as THISDAY learned that the agency that facilitated the flight assured the pilot that it would have secured approval before the aircraft would arrive Nigeria’s airspace.

“We allow flights that may not have the approval to land for two instances. One, Air Traffic Controllers do not have Ministerial or NCAA approvals; so what controllers do is to ask the pilot whether he has the approval to land and if he says, affirm, you have to allow him to land by giving him the support to do so. Further questions may distract him, but you can also ask him to give you the registration number of the aircraft and you cross-check it with registration department, if time permits; otherwise, you have to allow him to land but you explain to him that if he lands without approval he would pay the penalty, which is about $20, 000.

“The second instance flight is allowed to land is if the pilot declares emergency. In that case, what is important is safety of human lives. So you have to allow the aircraft to land,” the Air Traffic Control source told THISDAY.

In May the federal government had grounded UK registered charter aircraft over similar incident, for illegally operating a commercial flight into Nigeria.

The aircraft, which planned to conduct commercial flight, actually got a permit for humanitarian flight.