Following reports of several incidences of aircraft skidding off runways at the Port Harcourt International Airport, experts have raised concerns over the safety of the runway and urged total shut down for proper resurfacing.
They maintained that the lack of a central light at the runway was making night flight into the airport suicidal, more so, as too much rubber on the surface of the runway was also making it to retain so much water to the extent that when rain falls, aircraft lose balance and skid off the runway.
The experts, who stated this in Abuja at a two-day industry engagement on review of accident reports organised by the Accident Investigation Bureau, Nigeria (AIB-N), pointed out that the Port Harcourt runway was notorious for water deposits on its runway, whereby even big aircraft find it difficult to cope.
Insisting that the runway should be closed for proper resurfacing, they added that there was a curvature that needed to be maintained, such that the runway would begin to retain water, even during heavy down pours.
A former flight captain with Allied Airlines, Captain Wale Otubanjo, said most pilots often avoid flying into Port Harcourt at night, describing the runway as a dark hole approach, as there were a lot of trees surrounding it without adequate lighting, which makes it difficult to fly into the airport.
They urged the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to ensure implementation of AIB’s safety recommendations before the bad weather sets in, saying the NCAA should ensure that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) should implement the recommendations.
Also, Group Captain Ojikutu raised concerns over lack of skilled manpower at the NCAA to ensure that the recommendations were implemented, adding that it should have certified the runway for flight operations.
He said FAAN should have to carry out periodic maintenance of the airport, urging the AIB to find out if FAAN had done periodic maintenance of the runway, adding that there was also the need to find out when last the NCAA audited the Port Harcourt airport.
General Manager, Air Operation Certification and Surveillance at FAAN, Godwin Balang, said the agency was yet to certify the Port Harcourt Airport for flight operations, saying only the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja (NAIA) and the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos have been certified.
He urged industry experts to show understanding with the agency, adding that FAAN should implement AIB committee’s safety recommendations for airlines and other stakeholders.