The Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, has lamented the deplorable state of navigational aids at airports across the country, saying the situation was to blame for the many cases of cancelled flights due to poor visibility caused by the Harmattan haze.
Chairman of the association, Nogie Meggison, in a statement on Wednesdayexpressed “gross disappointment and deepest displeasure at the deplorable state of Navigational Aids at airports around the country which makes flying in the Nigerian airspace virtually impossible during the Harmattan season.”
He said the development continues to cause air passengers untold sufferings and frustration as their plans were constantly being disrupted due to flight cancellations.
Meggison recalled that 48 years ago, on December 28, 1968, history was made in the UK “when the first aircraft operated at CAT lll and landed in zero (0) visibility at Heathrow airport.”
“Yet Nigeria is unable to land aircraft with visibility of about 800m,” he said.
The AON chairman noted that the economic impact of the frequent flight delays and cancellations due to harmattan haze has become too heavy on the airlines.
According to him, “50% of scheduled flights are delayed due to weather, shortage of jet fuel, inadequate screening machines at the Terminal Boarding exit points, insufficient parking for airplanes on the tarmac, as well as VIP movement.”
He added that the Lagos airport has been shut down for the past three days while most international and local flights had to be diverted to Cotonou yesterday.
Megisson said, “For the past three days MMA (Murtala Mohammed Airport) in Lagos was shut down until 6pm before flights could land. Hence no airline could fly and passengers were delayed with colossal loss of revenue to the operators.
“A DANA Air flight that departed Abuja at 10am could not land in Lagos and had to return to Abuja until 6pm before flying back again still leaving about 500 to 600 passengers to various destinations stranded at the airport.”
He noted sadly that the Lagos Airport “which is the nation’s biggest and busiest airport is a CAT l airport.
“This means flights cannot land at below 800m due to the obsolete Instrument Landing System (ILS) in place at the airport.
“Yet all the aircraft being operated by the airlines are fully equipped to do a CAT ll or even CAT lll landing.
“If our airports were CAT lll as in Heathrow airport this same day on December 28, 1968, flights would have been able to operate normally in this harmattan season.”