THE serious incident involving Azman Air on February 16, 2021 when the airline’s aircraft a Boeing 737-500 with registration 5N-SYS named Sani Yunusa Sarina had a burst tyre on the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Runway 18 R/36L causing the busiest runway in Nigeria to be temporarily closed has strengthened the call for the installation of Air Field Lighting (AFL) at that runway.
Last week’s closure exposed certain vulnerabilities in the system especially as it regards usage of the International runway by domestic airlines once the local runway is closed for daylight operations.
Due to the inability of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to install Air Field Lighting (AFL) on the 2.7 kilometer (8,999ft) 18L/36R since the runway was rehabilitated and reopened in December 2008, 13 years ago, it has not tinkered plans to forestall events like what happened with the Azman Air serious incident.
Azman Air had to land on the 3.9 km 18R/36L because the runway it was meant to land on had no AFL for 13 years and has operated daylight for that time and one lucky thing with the landing on the international runway was the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the number of international airlines coming in for landing and their frequency.
This meant that FAAN could shut down the runway and reopen when the aircraft was removed.
Now, theoretically speaking, assuming flights were coming in normally that means these foreign airlines may have diverted to Kotoka in Accra or elsewhere because one of the country’s major runways has no AFL.