Airline Operators under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have complained about poor facilities at the nation’s airports saying that communication and surveillance equipment are not of standard.
The operators said that the Murtala Muhammed Airport which is the nation’s biggest and busiest airport is a CAT l airport which implies that flights cannot land at below 800m due to the obsolete Instrument Landing System (ILS) in place at the airport.
They urged the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to get better equipment, by upgrading the facilities to Category three (CAT 111).
They urged government to invest in modern navigation aids and runway lights so that they don’t come back again next year complaining about the same thing.
They expressed gross disappointment and displeasure at the deplorable state of navigational aids at airports around the country which they said makes flying in the Nigerian airspace virtually impossible during the harmattan season thereby increasing the sufferings of passengers and disrupting their plans for the yuletide season due to flight cancellations.
Chairman of AON, Capt. Nogie Meggison decried the situation and described it as appalling.
He noted that exactly forty eight years today on December 28, 1968, the first aircraft operated at CAT lll and landed in zero visibility at Heathrow airport, yet Nigeria is unable to land aircraft with visibility of about 800m.
Also, the planned concession of airports might be a way forward provided it is transparent and with a clear agenda as the Concessionaire would make sure these landing aids are in place,” Meggison said.
Meanwhile, most international and local flights had to be diverted to Cotounu, which is rather unfortunate. The issue of the harmattan haze is a yearly seasonal occurrence as Nigeria has mainly Raining (Thunderstorms) and Dry Seasons (Harmattan).
“If the world has been landing in zero or virtually no visibility since December 28, 1968, today 48 years later on December 28, 2016 on the anniversary of the first CAT III landing at Heathrow airport, Nigeria still can’t land with 800meters of visibility? Why are the navigation aids not working or upgraded over the years? Why is there no solution to this issue after forty years of the airlines crying out?
“It is rather shameful that today in the 21st Century, we are still talking of operating at CAT l and unable to land at 800m at our airports,” he noted.
He lamented that for the past three days, the Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos was shut down until 6pm before flights could land, adding that no airline could fly and passengers were delayed with colossal loss of revenue to the operators.
He disclosed that a Dana Air flight that departed Abuja at 10am on Tuesday could not land in Lagos and had to return to Abuja until 6pm before flying back again still leaving about 500 to 600 passengers to various destinations stranded at the airport.
His words, “This is very unfair to operators who cannot charge passengers for the extra cost the airline has to bear on return or cancelled flights and we have to feed and lodge them in a hotel.
“NAMA and FAAN need to be more responsible to ensure that our airports are equipped with the right landing aids to allow 24 hours operations in any weather condition,” Meggison stated.
Meggison noted that the economic impact occasioned by flight is too heavy on the operators, saying 50 per cent of scheduled flights are delayed due to weather, shortage of Jet fuel, inadequate screening machines at the terminal boarding exit points, insufficient parking for airplanes on the tarmac, as well as VIP movement.