Runway Lighting Boosts Value Of Lagos Airport

At last, the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos gets the much-awaited Airfield Lighting (AFL), putting to rest the economic consequences of not fixing the Lagos airport 18/L for nearly 18 years which were huge to airlines and the entire aviation value chain, writes, WOLE SHADARE

Finally settled

 The news of the completion of the installation of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos runway 18/L airfield lighting elicited joy among airlines and other stakeholders who had for nearly 18 years lamented about the absence of the very important equipment that had disallowed airlines to land or take off any time after 6 pm.

For many years, precisely nearly 16 years, the second runway of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, operated without airfield lighting.

For many years, airline operators struggled and mounted pressure on the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to provide light on the second runway popularly referred to as 18/ Left.

The operators and experts in the sector did not relent in their call to save the airlines, particularly domestic carriers, the enormous amount of fuel they burn to taxi from the wider, longer 18/ Right which international airlines use most of the time.

The news and efforts by the airport authority to match its words with action have elicited joy among operators and stakeholders.

The project, which commenced effectively on July 8, 2022, was completed last week Friday. The Runway 18L/36R was closed to flight operations during that time.

The airport is central to the operations of all domestic carriers. Daily operations begin and end in Lagos for most aircraft. Without runway lighting for night operations, the runway is shut at sunset, forcing the domestic terminal and airlines to wind down operations at dusk — the peak air business globally.

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The Lagos Airport domestic runway, which was re-commissioned in 2006 after refurbishment and rehabilitation, had been without runway lights until last week.

This has made it difficult for flights to take off or land on the runway at night, forcing domestic airlines to land at the international wing at night and then taxi to the domestic side.

From left: General Manager, Aviation Security, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Dr. Anna Egbadon; Managing Director, FAAN Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu and Ag. General Manager Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Faithful A.Hope- Ivbaze…recently

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had, earlier this year, approved N2.3 billion for the supply and installation of airfield ground lighting for the MMIA, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.

The carriers, over the years, may have spent over N6 billion on the amount they burn to taxi from the 18/R runway whenever it is past 6 pm as air traffic controllers forbid them from landing on the 18/Left and remained a sunset ‘airport’ like many other aerodromes that do not have night landing facilities.

Failed efforts

The administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo had, in 2006, approved the sum of N19.5 billion as an aviation intervention fund to secure the country’s skies after a series of plane crashes that claimed many lives.

From this, a contract worth N3.56 billion was awarded to P.W Nigeria Limited in 2006 for the resurfacing and expansion of runway 18L/36R by 150 metres. The cost of the airfield lighting was not included in the contract.

The FAAN 2011 came out and blamed the non-installation of the airfield lighting at the Murtala Mohammed domestic airport runway 18L on a court order slammed on the agency by an aggrieved party stopping the Federal Government from going ahead with the job.

This was even as FAAN hinted then that the contractor, PW Nigeria, had been mobilised to the site and was waiting for the courts to rescind the garnishee order before it could commence work.

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Buck-passing

It had been a ding-dong affair to fix this critical safety tool. Successive ministers of aviation had come and gone without giving it a serious thought and without considering how important it is to airlines and air traffic controllers.

After the 10-month promise, a former managing director of FAAN confirmed that the contract for the project had been awarded and that the job would be delivered soon.

He said: “We are working assiduously to mobilise the contractor; the contractor is in the process of being paid; he is just about signing the agreement with the authority.

Once he signs the agreement in the next few days, he would be mobilised to start work very soon. He has given us a completion period of 10 months. The contractor has met with the airport authority and we have planned the time that he should be able to work effectively.”

Another minister, Fidelia Njeze, came on board 11 months after Babatunde Omotoba and made her own promises that plans were on to improve the quality of aviation services and that in the next three months, the Air Field Lightings (AFL) system would be installed at the domestic runway 18 Left at Murtala Mohammed Airport Lagos.

The facility, however, briefly came up sometime on December 26, 2012, when the facility was withdrawn from FAAN by a former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, and handed over to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), which deployed 66 KALKIT brands of emergency airfield lights and additional two-approach lights, but that was reverted after a while and FAAN again took control of the AFL.

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Expert’s view

A former commandant of the Lagos Airport, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd), said FAAN had no excuse for neglecting the runway and the R parallel taxiway in Lagos for nearly two decades.

Ojikutu said in as much as they would want to blame funding, the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, is in financial fine-fettle to regularly upgrade its facilities to world standards. “My knowledge of airports’ earnings tells me that MMA alone can generate a minimum of N100 billion in revenue.

The question I have asked severally is: why can’t the airport spend 10 percent of its earnings on the maintenance of the airport infrastructure and facilities?

“What are the actual earnings from our airports that the maintenance of the critical infrastructure and facilities are in disrepair and are neglected?

Unfortunately too, the staff unions and airline operators are not seen or known to be vigorously complaining about these neglects,” Ojikutu said.

The Managing Director of FAAN, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu said with this, aircraft would be able to land and take off on the runway at night, thereby saving fuel consumption for them.

Yadudu regretted the pains the airline operators had gone through over the years due to the absence of the facility but noted that some of the challenges were inherited by the current management.

Runway

Last line

Non-provision of airfield lighting in runways at many Nigerian airports have been described as a threat to safety, as flights that have safety, problems cannot land on them after daylight, and flights cannot take off from such airports after dusk.

Wole Shadare