The approach lights on the runway of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, have gone off, forcing pilots to depend solely on equipment onboard their aircraft to land, findings by The PUNCH have revealed.
An approach lighting system is a lighting system installed on the approach end of an airport runway and consisting of a series of light-bars, strobe lights, or a combination of the two that extends outward from the runway end, according to Wikipedia. It is a lighting system that assists the pilot/aircraft to come in and land safely.
Impeccable airport sources said the approach lights collapsed on Monday evening and pilots were subsequently forced to rely solely on their onboard equipment to land airplanes.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the matter, said it was sad that the relevant aviation authorities did not issue a Notice to Airmen on the development until later on Tuesday.
A copy of the NOTAM which was sighted by The PUNCH showed that the document was issued by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency’s Aeronautical Information Services department.
The NOTAM, dated May 31, 2022, was signed by one Abah G.N, an official of the airspace agency.
As of 10:30pm on Tuesday, it was uncertain when the problem would be fixed.
The Acting General Manager, Public Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mrs Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, asked our correspondent to send a text message when she was contacted on the development.
A response to the text message sent by The PUNCH to her was still being expected as of the time of filing this report.
A pilot with one of the domestic airlines, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity on the matter, said the collapse of the approach light could inhibit pilots’ capability to land airplanes safely in bad weather.
According to him, the approach lights assist pilots in landing on the runway.
“It is sad that the relevant authorities are just issuing NOTAM on the development over 24 hours after the light collapsed. That is very dangerous. This is very annoying,” the pilot said.
A pilot and President, National Association of Private Aircraft Owners, Mr Alex Nwuba, said there was no reason to panick over the development but stressed that there an urgent need for the authorities to fix the lights as soon as possible.
Last year, some parts of the runway lights at the MMIA collapsed, forcing British Airways to divert its flight to the Abuja airport.
The development then forced the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the aviation industry regulator, to downgrade the landing procedure at the Lagos airport from Category Two to Category One.
BA passengers whose flight was diverted to the Federal Capital Territory were forced to pass a night in Abuja before being flown back to Lagos.
The unserviceable state of the runway lights made it impossible for BA, which flies a large plane, to land at the Lagos airport at night. Other foreign airlines with relatively smaller planes can land.
Also, last week, the international wing of the MMIA was temporarily shut after the mangled body of a dead man was found on Runway 18R of the nation’s flagship airport.
During the temporary shutdown of the runway, international flights were prevented from landing and taking off from the airport’s international terminal.
Among the flights that could not land due to the shutdown was an Ethiopian Airlines flight 3907, a Boeing 77F aircraft with registration number ETAVN, which was coming from Lome, Togo to Lagos, Nigeria.
The flight was later diverted back to Lome after holding for a while.
Airport officials said the corpse was suddenly found on Runway 18R during a routine runway inspection by FAAN personnel.
As of the time of filing this report, FAAN had yet to confirm the identity of the corpse.