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Nine Months After, Lagos Int’l Airport Runway Remains Closed - DAILY TRUST

DECEMBER 01, 2023

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Thursday failed to reopen the runway 18R/36L of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, which it promised to achieve by the end of the month.

This is despite the huge inconveniences the foreign airlines are going through since March 11th 2023 when the runway was shut down.

It would be recalled that FAAN had closed the runway 18R/36L on March 11th 2023 for a period of eight weeks to carry out maintenance works on the runway while both international and local flights were diverted to runway Runway 18L/36R, which is meant to serve only the domestic flights.

It would be recalled that runway 18L/36R was used for only daylight operations for over 14 years due to the non-availability of airfield lighting, a critical component aiding night operations.

However, there was a relief for operators following the installation of the AFL components comprising approach lights, Runway Lights (Threshold and Centre, edge light and others) which enabled the runway to return to full 24/7 operations.

The installation was completed in November, 2022.

Shortly after, the authority in line with the runway maintenance programme announced the shutdown of the international runway for maintenance works scheduled to be concluded by May according to the statement released at the time.

The runway, which is the longest in the country covering 3,900 metres, could not be reopened afterwards following the theft of the AFL.

With the completion of installation of AFL at the runway 18L/36R, it was convenient to divert traffic to the runway to allow for the maintenance of the international runway (18R).

However, nine months later, foreign airlines are grumbling over the delay in reopening the second runway, which is making their operation extremely difficult.

A foreign airline operator who spoke with our correspondent in confidence said, “The delay in reopening Runway 18R is a big inconvenience for the big airlines. Airlines to the USA operate under weight restrictions.

“They depart with empty seats that could have been sold but they couldn’t sell them due to weight restrictions.”

Also, cargo flights are said to be finding it increasingly difficult having to taxi for a longer time to the cargo after landing at the airport.

Another source said, “The runway was shut down before the stealing of Airfield Lighting occurred. The maintenance was just on the runway, not on the light.

“The AFL, the way it was stolen, is not something anybody can put in their pocket. In the real sense, it is like you have five or six people living in two rooms and after some time, a room is closed. I am not saying there is congestion so to say but the implication is we use one runway for every flight.

“During the period of heavy traffic, it could add to the delay because we are using one runway for both ends. But when you have two runways working, it reduces the number of landings and departures you carry out at some particular points in time.”

Speaking with our correspondent, a former General Secretary of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA), Mr. Banji Olawode said, “It is better if the two runways are working. If the two are working, it gives the pilots options. There could be pilots that are coming to local but because they are heavy or during rain or bad weather, some will prefer longer runways for their own manoeuvring.

“Cargo airplanes would have preferred the longer runways and if any cargo plane lands now you see the distance it would cover before it taxis to the cargo village…It gives room for more efficiency if the two of them are working.”

Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. Kabiru Muhammed had promised that the runway would be reopened by the end of November with foreign hoping to ease a sigh of relief but this was not the case.

FAAN’s Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, Abdullahi Yakubu-Funtua could not be reached yesterday for comment. The text message sent to him was not replied as of press time.


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