7 March 2014

Nigeria: Domestic Airlines Lose N20 Billion Annually to Poor Airfield Lighting

Nigerian domestic carriers lose over N20 billion annually to poor, inadequate or non-existent air field lighting at some Nigerian airports.

The losses are incurred by the inability of the airlines to operate to some airports in the country beyond 6:00 pm, so they lose revenue estimated to be over 10 billion annually as airlines like Arik Air and Aero could operate to all the airports till 10 pm and beyond every day.

Aircraft which is meant to operate at least 16 hours a day is forced to operate for only eight hours, which means they are grossly underutilised and such underutilisation is neither good for the equipment nor to the coffers of these airlines.

In addition to the economic losses is the breach of safety standards, as non-lighting of the runway could endanger aircraft operation under sudden poor visibility and this is what has contributed to the refusal of the International Civil Aviation Organisation from certifying any of the nation's airports.

But the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), which has the responsibility of providing runway lighting to the airports, said it has started installing airfield lighting at some of the airports.

In late 2012 the agency installed mobile lighting at the domestic runway of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, known as Runway 18L and last month it installed passive reflector lighting at the taxiways of the domestic runway, thus completing the lighting systems at the runway.

The General Manager, Public Affairs of NAMA, Supo Atobatele, also said that the agency engineers have finished rehabilitation and installation of runway in some airports which include Enugu, Abuja, Ilorin, Calabar, Port Harcourt and Yola, "and right now they are maintaining approach and centre lines of the international runway at the Lagos airport, known as Runway 18R.

An official of Arik Air once told THISDAY that the airline would rarely cancel flights if there is airfield lighting in all the airports in the country.

The official said Arik would have been flying late to Benin, Enugu, Calabar and other airports in the country where there is high demand of travellers, especially on weekends.

Industry security expert, Group Capt John Ojikutu (Retrd) had observed that technically any airport runway that does not have airfield lighting is useless during emergency as aircraft under distress cannot land there after 6:00 pm.

"Imagine that there is accident at the Runway 18L (of Lagos) and it has to close during the night which is the busiest period when all the international flights are landing and taking off? It means that the airport will close. So it is absolutely important that the runway lights are installed as urgently as possible," Ojikutu said.

NAMA said that it plans to provide airfield lighting at the airports that do not have it now and all others where existing lighting has become obsolete will be rehabilitated.

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