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UPDATED – Aviation Safety: Regulators close Abuja Airport runway as aircraft crash-lands ●Minister apologises to travellers

*The Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau discloses aviation sector regulators have closed  the runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, in Abuja, for safety and investigation, following an incident involving crash-landing of a Boeing 733 passenger aircraft belonging to Aero Contractors Sunday, November 12

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Sequel to crash-landing of an Aero Contractors Airlines aircraft morning Sunday, November 12, 2023, at the airport, the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) says the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), in Abuja, FCT, has been closed for safety and  investigation of the incident.

ConsumerConnect reports the latest incident involved the airlines’ Boeing 733 aircraft with Nationality and Registration Marks 5N-BYQ.

Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, CON, FCIArb (UK), Honourable Minister for Aviation and Aerospace Development

The aircraft, which was flying in from Lagos arrived in Abuja, and in a bid to exit the runway via A4 had its nose wheel stuck in the grass verge with its fuselage on the runway, according to report.

The NSIB, in a statement issued Sunday by James Odaudu, its Spokesperson,  said: “Consequently, the runway was closed pending the towing of the aircraft from the runway.” The Bureau also disclosed that an investigation had commenced into the “serious incident”.

Odaudu, however, noted that ‘there was no injury or fatality” in the incident.

Aviation Minister Keyamo apologises to air travellers

In his reaction to the latest incident at Abuja Airport, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, CON, FCIArb (UK), Honourable Minister for Aviation and Aerospace Development, in his verfied X (formerly Twitter) account Sunday, November 12 apologised to air travellers whose flights must have been disrupted by the accident.

Keyamo wrote: “Apologies for the flight disruptions at the Abuja airport today which affected other flight operations throughout the country.

“It was caused by an incident at the Abuja runway involving an aircraft which made it impossible for other aircraft to land for some time.”

The Minister stated: “This underscores the urgent need for the Abuja second runway, and my first task when I came to office as Aviation Minister was to secure the land from the indigenes.

“Just two weeks ago, the contractors have moved to site to begin construction of the Abuja second runway.”

One crash-landing too many in the Nigerian aviation space?

It is recalled that a similar incident occurred at Ibadan Airport, in Oyo State recently.

The crash-landing of a private jet at Ibadan Airport had involved Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, Honourable Minister for Power, and other people aboard the aircraft.

ConsumerConnect had reported that after the Ibadan incident, however, aviation stakeholders and experts openly indicted the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigerian Aerospace Management Authority (NAMA) of “poor regulator oversight”, especially with regard to strict standard safety and operational procedures at the Ibadan Airport.

Specfically, the experts identified two major regulatory breaches as regards the crash-landing of the at Ibadan Airport.

One was that the aircraft used for the flight was a non-commercial aircraft not meant for a charter service because it does not have the permit to operate charter, according to report.

The second fact was that the Ibadan Airport is designated as a “sunset airport”, as communicated in the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM).

According to them, flight operations to the airport should be from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., but flight involved in the incident left Abuja at 6:41 p.m. and arrived at 8:13 p.m.

Airline operators said that two regulations were breached in the case of the Ibadan Airport incident: an aircraft that was meant for private service was used for charter service, and it operated into an airport designated for Visual Flight Rule (VFR), that is sunset airport, according to report.

The aviation professionals equally stressed that could be attributed to lapses of the regulatory authorities, noting that such breaches have become common in recent times, said the experts.

An industry professional also stated: “Ibadan is known as daylight airport. It is surprising that the flight was allowed to leave Abuja for Ibadan at that time.

“That was a big risk. The aircraft does not have Air Operator Certificate (AOC). It has PNCF.

“Using aircraft that is private to operate charter services is eroding the market.”

The expert, who is into a charter service further remarked: “It means the industry is not properly regulated. Every aircraft should be monitored.

“Also, the Visual Flight Rule at Ibadan airport was compromised. We operate charter services and pay 5 percent charge to NCAA.

“We also face stricter regulation in terms of maintenance to ensure that aircraft that operate charter services are safer.

“Those that have permit as privately operated aircraft do not pay this 5 percent charge and are not subjected to strong maintenance monitoring,”

Another operator who is an executive of a schedule commercial airline, reportedly noted that breaching the VFR at Ibadan Airport recently, was a compromise on safety.

He regretted that similar flight operations had been happening at the same airport and others that have similar conditions.

“Although the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) is yet to publish its initial report on the incident, we cannot talk about what caused the incident but the flight had no business going there without navigational aids.

“Also, as a private aircraft it should not have been allowed to operate charter service. That was violation of standing regulation,” the expert said.

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