Runway closure: Stakeholders list effects, benefits to airlines

By Nosa Aituamen

Succour has finally come the way of airline operators and air traffic controllers as the installation of the airfield ground lighting system on the local runway of the Lagos airport has since commenced.

Stakeholders in the sector who described the development as commendable say, the project when completed in 90 days, would cut down on the cost of operations for airlines.

In this special report, our Aviation correspondent Nosa Aituamen highlights the importance of the lighting system to safety and the benefits to  operators and other stakeholders.

Just as lights illuminate a dark room so does lights on the runways of airports.

These lights in different colours aid pilots to land and take off, they are like directional signs to guide taxing of aircraft among others.

These colourful lights have a profound impact on safety especially when the sun sets or during poor visibility.

For over twelve years due to the absence of these lights, domestic flights after sun set use the International airport runway to land and take off.

A development which has put a lot of strain on operators and passengers resulting in delays in landing and take off both for local and foreign flights at that time of the day.

Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Captain Rabiu Yadudu says, the delay in the lighting system installation was due to approval processes.

“We don’t have all the money to fix all, airfield abandoned, it supposed to be replace and now we are replacing them, the while airport has aged facilities”.

Now, with the commencement of the installation, stakeholders say, it is better late than never.

Captain Ibrahim Mshelia and Group Captain John Ojikutu retired, emphasized that the fuel burnt taxing to take off and landing  at the International Airport runway would stop save passengers time and turn around for airlines.

“It’s going to compound traffic, there will be so much holding in Lagos. Airplanes would arrive and had because there will be queue for take off and there would be queue for landing, can they handle this?”.
” Let them endure it, there will be effects, the benefits to airlines later on will come. Most of them that have cancelled night landing in Lagos will now start enjoying the benefits if the new runway”.

For the airline operators, it is going to be a bitter sweet experience especially at this time when the price of fuel has soared and having to burn more fuel with the use of one runway for both local and foreign flights would eat deep into their pockets.

Spokesman for one of the local airlines, Mr. Kingsley Ezenwa explains the effects on their operations.

“That’s additional 30 minutes of fuel burn or 40 minutes depending on the hours or minutes of delay, at the moment you know what fuel price is, about N750 per litre and this is almost taking 90% of operational cost of airlines”.

With the high volume of traffic at the air, traffic controllers say, the use of one runway for all flights would put a lot of stress on them.

President, Nigeria Air Traffic Controllers Association, NATCA, Mr. Yomi Agoro appealed to pilots to show understanding and cooperation with air traffic controllers as there would be delays.

“We are the ones that are going to feel the hit, we appeal to pilots to try as much as possible to be patient with our people and cooperate with them”.

The NATCA President appealed to FAAN to ensure the work is completed as scheduled as delay or extension would not augur well for the system.

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