TRACKING >>It is most unlikely not to find abandoned aircraft in any of the airports across the country. ANTHONY AWUNOR looks at the issue of abandoned aircraft and the dangers it poses to aviation safety
In recent years, the large hulks of abandoned airplanes at the airports have become a source of worry to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The agency is therefore, taking measures to see that none of the airports are harbouring any form of abandoned planes in the country.
As at 2013, it was estimated by FAAN that some 65 planes were abandoned at airports across Nigeria. These airports included: Lagos, Abuja , Sam Mbakwe Cargo International Airport , Owerri, Yakubu Gowon Airport, Jos; Benin Airport , Kaduna Airport, Kano Airport and Maiduguri Airport . Airlines involved in such abandonment include: the liquidated Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL), Chrome Air, Fresh Air, Dasab Airline, Albarka, Okada Air, Kabo Air, Triax, Oriental, Sosoliso, Afrijet, Freedom Air, Capital Air, Chanchangi, Bellview Airlines and Gas Air. Spaceworld, IRS, NICON airways, Bellview airline are also involved amongst others. The aircraft models range from Fokker 28, Embraer 100 to Boeing 727 and 737, some of which have been at the airport environment for almost 10 years.
As at last year, about eight out of the 13 abandoned aircraft at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport were relocated.
Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, the General Manager, Corporate Communications gave the names of the aircraft relocated by the agency as Associated Air, IRS, Dana Air and Hak Air. This was followed by that of aircraft belonging to the liquidated carrier, Air Nigeria, Associated Cargo, Bellview, JedAir, Precision Aviation Handling Company and PAC, TopBrass and others.
Yakubu said the relocation became necessary in order to give more space for airworthy aircraft to land, take off and manoeuvre as expected during operations at the airside, insisting that FAAN would continue to take safety and comfort of airport users as a top priority.
She said, “As at Friday, we moved four aircraft from the airside and the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of Lagos airport told me again that they are going to move another set of four aircraft. We have about 13 aircraft abandoned at the airside.
“We have taken the legal issues into consideration, if you agree with me; these aircraft are not helping us in anyway. They are taking up a lot of space. Space for aircraft landing and taking off are being taken by these aircraft.
“The airports belong to FAAN, which means that it is the property of the Federal Government and there is no airline that is bigger than Nigeria. Nigeria has given them a long time to be able to move their aircraft and they have refused to do this. FAAN is not taking possession of their aircraft, but we are moving them away from where they are to another place within the airport where they will not serve as eyesore and where they will not constitute nuisance to activities on our airside.
“What we are doing is part of the services FAAN is providing; comfort and security. So, for security, these aircraft have been abandoned at the airport for long and miscreants can just go in there and do whatever they want. We want our airports to look beautiful and fine, the aircraft that are littered around deface the beauty of our airside.”
She lamented that FAAN had severally told the owners of these aircraft to relocate them away from where they are presently abandoned without any fruitful response from them, stressing that where they are presently abandoned constitute danger to safety and smooth operations of aircraft.
Apart from abandoned aircraft, the management of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Ikeja has also raised the alarm over indiscriminate parking of aircraft at the airport, warning that such situation poses security threat to the airport environment.
The regional manager South West, Mrs. Victoria Shin-Aba, told LEADERSHIP that the parked aircraft were also security threats to the airport as one of the aircraft was blocking the security surveillance camera from capturing activities around the bay and beyond.
Shin-Aba stressed that such obstruction could constitute a threat to the airport and other airplanes operating into the airport.
“All over the world, slot allocations for aircraft are worked out and these airlines don’t consider the capacity of open bays,” she said.
Shin-Aba, however, said plans were on to increase the capacity of the apron but it would be a long time plan.
In a chat with LEADERSHIP, Shin-Aba said local operators operating international flights have taken over the open bay of the MMIA, making it difficult for other operating international airlines to secure parking lots on arrival.
According Shin-Aba, the airport management was not against any airline bringing in aircraft but that the management of MMIA should be duly informed prior to the arrival of the aircraft to enable the authority provide a suitable place where it will not affect its operations.
She explained that three aircraft belonging to Nigerian carrier had been parked for over four years while another was parked for over one year, urging them to consider the small space available at the airport.
“We are not against new airlines operating here, we welcome new operators and we are not hostile but prior notice should be given when an aircraft is coming in. The international airlines always notify us whenever they are bringing in a bigger aircraft to enable us provide space for them”
She disclosed that FAAN was ready to grant waiver on parking for any airline operator ready to park at Enugu, Ilorin and Port Harcourt airports as a result of the congestion of MMIA, adding that the operators were not willing to accept the offer.
According to the airport manager, 32 airlines are making use of the only 14 functional avio bridges at MMIA on daily bases.
Impact on cargo
Beyond the safety implications of indiscriminate parking of aircraft at the airports, experts have opined that space in tarmac is very vital in imports and exports.
According to the President of Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives of Nigeria (AFARN), Mr. Kingsley Nwokoma, lack of proper planning, inadequate apron facility and lack of support from the airport authority are remote causes why Nigeria lost its leading air cargo hub status in the West African sun-region.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, Nwokoma said such situation had been a source of worry to AFARN which had, over the years mooted the idea of projects like the cargo village or cargo terminal to boost the cargo flow into and out of the country.
He, therefore, appealed to President Mohammadu Buhari; despite whichever project they had in mind, to consider the issue of expanding the airports’ tarmac and increasing of the parking bays at the different airports so as to facilitate free flow of cargoes without hitches.
Explaining the challenges the industry has been facing over the years, Nwokoma said “We the AFARN have a lot of projects like the cargo village or cargo terminal. We have talked about that over the years and we hope that that, within this four years of President Buhari, such projects will be included in whatever project that they have in mind. When the tarmac and parking bays were built, we were not futuristic because we could have looked at a 10-20-year plan. But in the 60s, when this was built, it was just built with parking bays, to just contain averagely 4 to 5 aircraft, depending on the type of aircraft but now things have changed. Those days you have the 707s and the 727s, and those are small-body aircraft, but generational change has brought in aircraft like 747s, Dash 800; we have the 777 cargo aircraft and all that.
“Once two aircraft are parked in that tarmac, we don’t have space for additional aircraft to park. So what is usually done is for them to ask the aircraft to go to the passenger terminal which is also time consuming and also causes more fuel consumption. Network punctuality is also disrupted. Because if I have an aircraft coming to Lagos and it is supposed to be in Accra or Nairobi at a particular time, and it moves from one place to the other, there is always a time wastage”, he added.
Apron expansion to the rescue
According to Shin Aba, FAAN is building aprons at both the international, cargo and domestic wings of the airport. She said the agency was doing so at a pace but needed some quick intervention and that was why it became pertinent to call on airlines to take advantage of its offer to move their equipment to other airport without charge.
She said, “Currently we have 32 international airlines flying into Nigeria, around 272 international aircraft movement daily for both arrival and departure. On the domestic scene we have 27 arrival and 32 departures while we have 30 cargo arrivals and 28 departures.
“At our cargo apron, the capacity is meant to take four aircraft at least two wide-bodied aircraft and two smaller aircraft at the same time. Once in a while we have more than capacity, once this place is filled up, we take the cargo flights to the international airport and that is additional cost to the cargo airline as they need to deploy and truck their goods from international to cargo.
“This is why we need to create space for airlines. On the left is supposed to be the expansion and we are on it. Safety issues can also arise due to congestion which is what happens most times. The expansion is looking at increasing the cargo apron to accommodate eight wide-bodied aircraft. So when work commences that is what we are looking at.”
On what FAAN is doing to create space before the aprons are built, Shin-Aba said, “We are reaching out to the airlines severally and not all the aircraft on the apron are unserviceable, some are very serviceable. We are talking to them and some are seeing our reason and we hope to continue the overture. This is why FAAN is willing to waive payment for them if they agree to take their parked aircraft to airports with less traffic.”
According to her, FAAN also needs to review its byelaws that deal with the issue of aircraft parking stating that operators too need to give ample time to FAAN before they bring in their aircraft so the airport authority can sit with them and plan for the parking.