NAMA, Air Peace disagree over Flight Return from Enugu Airport
As reps committee probes incident
Officials of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and management of Air Peace Airlines yesterday traded blames over circumstances that caused an Enugu bound aircraft, to return to Lagos, its take off point, without landing as its destination airport was closed.
On December 22, 2016, an Air Peace 737 aircraft was forced to return to Lagos at about 11.30pm while enroute Enugu International Airport, as the Tower was closed, even though the airline had applied for fours hours extension from the closing hour of 7pm.
The application was made to NAMA, which confirmed its receipt.
Speaking before the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Air Peace Chief Operating Officer, Oluwatoyin Olajide said the airline had first applied for three hours extension, and then applied formally to NAMA for an extra hour, and had paid the required charges, to allow the inbound flight land, discharge its passengers at its destination before departing for Abuja.
She added that while the extension was till 11pm, the aircraft started up at the domestic airport in Lagos at 10.45pm and taxied to the international airport before taking off at 11.15pm.
But the Enugu airport tower however closed at 11.08pm even though the inbound aircraft had started up in Lagos, she claimed.
“The aircraft was already enroute when the tower was threatening to close. Our Manager at Enugu appealed to them, even followed them to the car park, but they told her unless we get permission from their boss. At that point, we had to communicate to the crew to return to Lagos,” she said.
Olajide added that the airlines experienced several challenges during the festive season, particularly harmattan haze and unavailability of aviation fuel resulting in several delays.
She lamented that the situation burdened the 107 passengers of the airline as many of them had to book hotel accommodation in Enugu for the night.
NAMA also disagreed with the passengers figures, which it claimed were 115 plus five crew members.
On his part, Managing Director of NAMA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu said the airline had the responsibility to ensure it operated within the extended hours granted.
“What could have happened is that the airline did not make necessary request for further extension. This was not the first time extension is being granted,” he said.
He added that Airpeace Manager at Enugu airport who made the initial request for additional hours, should have asked for more time.
Several members of the committee however disagreed with the position of NAMA.
The Chairman, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha queried why an airport, designated as an international airport, would close at 7pm.
She also wondered why the tower, which closed at 11.08 pm could not simply wait for the aircraft expected to land at 11.30pm, since the aircraft was already airborne.
Hon. Boma Goodhead (Rivers PDP) said the challenges which the airlines were experiencing at the time, should have been considered by the air traffic controllers, and other airport staff.
” Even the passengers would suffer anxiety, having reached their destination, probably they were delayed in the first instance, then they were returned to Lagos,” she said.
Also speaking, Hon. Abdulrahman Shuaibu (Adamawa APC) said there ought to be better communication between the government agencies and airlines.
“What level of authority do you give your staff in case of emergency? If there is an emergency, can your staff re-open the tower?” he said.
Hearing on the matter, Onyejeocha said would continue on another date that would be communicated to all parties concerned.
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