Arik pilots foil robbery attempt on aircraft

Rather than abate, the robbery of aircraft on hold at the holding point of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos has continued as airlines and their aircraft are at the mercy of robbers.

Just last week Thursday, an Arik aircraft suffered a similar fate putting passenger an aircraft in danger.

An air traffic controller who spoke to Aviation Metric under strict condition of anonymity disclosed that an Arik aircraft landed at the Lagos international airport runway from Abuja and on the taxiway was advised by the tower to hold.

While holding, the captain noticed a caution light suggesting the rear cargo hold door had been opened from outside.

Sensing danger, the captain was said to have added power, forcing the cargo hold door to be closed from the flight deck.

He stated that immediately, the captain alerted the control tower of the situation amid the absence of the Follow-Me or escort vehicle which it was learnt was not provided for the aircraft as it is done for all aircraft cleared to the threshold preparatory for take-off.

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It is however not clear if the same escort service is given to arriving airplanes or just departing airplanes.

“The control tower was informed of what happened to Arik Air last week Thursday. The Arik aircraft landed at the Runway 18/R or what people refer to as the Murtala Muhammed International Airport runway. While taxiing, the captain was instructed to hold for another approaching aircraft.”

“While holding, the captain noticed a caution light suggesting that the aircraft rear cargo do was opened. The captain alerted the control tower of the presence of people near the aircraft. It was a situation that posed a serious threat to the aircraft”.

Arik Air

“The report of the incident is with us and has been passed to the respective authority to discourage the presence of unauthorized persons in sensitive areas of the airport”, the source added.

There have been many reported cases of robbery of aircraft cargo by thieves, especially at the Lagos airport.

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Most of the time, some unidentified persons find their way ‘miraculously’ to the holding areas, open the cargo hold of an arriving or departing jet to steal luggage. It was so common with private jets, but over time they became emboldened by extending their action to bigger commercial aircraft.

In 2018, Air Peace cried out, alleging that suspected burglars opened cargo hold of Air Peace Flight 7138 taxiing for departure on Runway 18R (A1) of the Lagos Airport.

The forced opening of the cargo of the aircraft led to a delay in the departure of the aircraft for close to two hours as security operatives attached to the airport carried out a comprehensive search on the airplane before being allowed to depart the airport.

In the same 2018, a private jet belonging to ANAP Jets, owned by entrepreneur Atedo Peterside, was reportedly vandalised by robbers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

In December 2017, a private jet conveying two top Nigerian musical artists, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, better known as Wizkid, and Tiwa Savage from Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, was robbed at the airport while taxiing on the runway.

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The aircraft, a Bombardier Challenger 605 jet with Registration Number T7-A00, arrived in Lagos at about 8:33 pm and was slowly taxiing to the arrival hangar when the cargo compartment was burgled.

 Some unidentified persons opened the cargo hold of an arriving private jet and stole a bag. This happened after air traffic controllers asked the arriving aircraft to hold for traffic reasons. However, while the aircraft was holding, some thieves popped out from the bush and opened the cargo hold door, stealing a bag.

According to airport standard procedure, there should be an escort van to tail all arriving and departing aircraft prior to take-off or entry into the ramp. It is unclear if these vehicles were operational.

Wole Shadare