Runway incidents raise safety concerns at Port Harcourt airport
A runway excursion by one of the airlines planes two weeks ago, and other eight incidents in the last couple of years have drawn attention to the safety status of the airport, especially during the rainy season.
The concerns became stronger as most of the safety recommendations on account of past incidents, were allegedly yet to be implemented by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Although FAAN has not officially responded to inquiries as at press time yesterday, an official told The Guardian that the implementation has been partially executed.
PHIA is the third busiest airport after Lagos and Abuja airports, with passenger traffic in excess of 1.5 million yearly. Following the Sossoliso Plane Crash of 2005 and an electrical fire incident in 2006, the airport was shutdown for emergency runway repairs, among others.
But since it was reopened in 2007, it has recorded five runway incidences involving four commercial airplanes and one private operator that overran the runway in inclement weather of gusting winds and rain.
About two Saturdays ago, a Boeing 737-500 of one of the private airlines overshot the runway during a heavy rain. The plane, which was coming from Abuja with 94 passengers and six crew members onboard, skidded off the runway by about 1300m from the Runway 21 threshold.
All passengers and crew were evacuated safely. Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has commenced a probe of the incident. The runway excursion followed two earlier incidents of the airline’s aircraft. One was a hard landing last May in Lagos, and the other, the loss of cabin pressure incident in December, among others.
In the aftermath of the incidences, several safety recommendations had been issued by the AIB.
For instance, following investigation into Dana Airline incident of February 2018, the AIB report recommended that FAAN should conduct Friction Test and De-rubberisation of all active runways under its control.
Aviation Security Consultant, Group. Captain John Ojikutu (rtd) yesterday said friction resistance of runway often deteriorates due to usage and especially polishing actions from tyres rolling or breaking on the runway surface and accumulation of contamination.
However, there is need to investigate why such incidents have been rampant at Port Harcourt airport and especially during the rains than at other airports in Lagos, Calabar, Owerri, Benin, Enugu, and Uyo, among others.
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