Think-tank flays NCAA, FAAN over failed Abuja runway

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja

The dust raised by the Federal Government’s plan to close the Abuja Airport for runway repairs may just not settle yet, as more stakeholders blamed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for negligence.

The think-tank of the industry, Aviation Round Table (ART), carpeted the NCAA for its failure at ensuring that FAAN religiously complied with the Runway Maintenance Programme for the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, which is an operational safety requirement.

ART, among other stakeholders, said the negligence deserved probing for putting operators and passengers at risk for about 10 years. Recall that the Abuja airport was built in 1982, with a runway surface that had a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. It means that by 2007, the runway ought to have been resurfaced but was not till date.

While the current administration has planned to close the runway for six weeks for repair works, some concerned parties, including the airlines operators and the workers’ unions have called for partial closure to mitigate effects of diverting traffic to Kaduna Airport.

The ART, however, faulted calls that the ADOWNirport should not be shutdown but managed to allow smaller aircraft to land. It said that out of the 3.6km runway at the Abuja Airport, only 2.4km is currently available.

Chairman of the ART, Gbenga Olowo said it is unsafe and impracticable to divide the runway into two and still continue to operate on one section while work progressed on the other section.

Olowo said more disturbing, is the fact that the the runway is so bad and in need of complete overhaul and closure. He observed that the London Gatwick Airport which is a single runway airport that began commercial operations since 1933 and has never been closed in 84 years.

The Gatwick runway length is 3.3km compared to Abuja’s which is 3.6km. Between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015 alone, Gatwick had a total of 271,071 aircraft movements comprising 135,536 departures/takeoff and 135,535 arrivals/landings.

He urged FAAN to ensure that it developed a Runway Maintenance Programme approved by NCAA, if none is currently available. “NCAA on the other hand, must, through regular oversight, ensure FAAN’s compliance with approved Runway Maintenance Programme. The Runway Maintenance Programme must be factored on periodic number of landings rather than on the age of the runway.

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