Experts in runway safety have called for regular inspection of the runway on a daily basis to identify problems and addressing them quickly to reduce accidents and incidences on the runway.
Speaking at a one- day seminar on Enhancing Runway Safety Management at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, the experts said incidences of runway incursion, excursion and confusion can be mitigated if there were increased surveillance on the runways.
They noted that over 60% of fatal accidents in aviation were related to the runway, adding that it was decided at the Abuja Ministerial Declaration in 2012 that all African states should implement runway safety to reduce fatal accidents by 50% by December 2015.
A member of the Runway Safety Team and a pilot, Captain Folu Oladipo said many factors were responsible for these accidents and incidences on the runway, he listed them to include, runway contamination, adverse weather condition , failure to provide timely , accurate and relevant information to pilots, inadequate signage, markings, illumination, lighting, runway design etc.
“One of the biggest problems is conditions of the runways which makes aircraft overshoot the runway, there are a lot of contributory factors, lighting, navigational aids, things that would assist the pilot to land”.
In a paper entitled: “The Application of Safety Management System in Runway Safety Management, General Manager, Airspace Navigation Services, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Mr. Pwajok Mathew Lawrence defined runway excursion as, “an event in which an aircraft veers off or overruns the runway surface during either take-off or landing, while runway confusion is occurs when pilots enter, take off or land on, the wrong runway and incursion, when vehicles, animals or persons are on the designated surface for landing and take of aircraft”.
He stressed that the NCAA as the regulator of the industry does not handle matters of safety with kid gloves as it regularly carry out oversight functions on the runway to ensure measures were in place to promote safety.
Mr. Pwajok said,” it is not by coincident that all attention is geared toward runway, in terms of NCAA oversight, yes, we consider it very critical in terms of the runway facilities, the airborne facilities, also the visuals and non- visual aids that assist towards landing and also associated ground facilities such as what we call runway and safety areas, the perimeter fencing and the security of the airport to prevent any incursion either by animals, vehicles or persons”.
On his part, General Manager, Safety Management System and Quality Assurance, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, Martins Akaujobi harped on the need for at least one regular inspection be conducted daily at aerodromes which are open for 24 hours operation,” as soon as practicable, before the first flight in the day. At non-24 hours aerodromes, the inspection should be conducted before the commencement of flying”.
” the aerodrome lighting should be inspected before night flying commences, unserviceabilities or obstructions observed during aerodrome surface or lighting inspection should be recorded on appropriate form, where urgent attention is necessary,eg, markings, lighting or immediate repair, details should be passed to the responsible section, by telephone in accordance with local arrangement”he added.
The Runway Safety Team led by Mrs. Ngozi Njoku, who is also the Deputy General Manager/Head of Safety Services Department at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, said since the inauguration of the team, they have been able to collaborate well with all other safety related units of both FAAN and NAMA.
She noted there had been great improvement in the safety of the runway as incidences of incursion by animals and persons had greatly reduced due to regular patrol of the perimeter fence and surveillance.
According to her, ” the runway is the bedrock of airside operations, because that is aircraft land, take- off, maneuver and many other things, most of the accident that happen there is due to people’s nonchalant attitude but when they are aware, they will be able to be more concerned, they will be more careful because if there is any obstacle on the runway, it will not urgur well for aircraft operations”.
She added the functions of the RST,” include advising management on potential runway safety issues, recommending strategies for hazard removal, mitigating residual risk and ensuring strict compliance with ICAO Standards in all airside operations”.
Highlight of the seminar was the handing over of a patrol vehicle to the team by the MMIA airport manager, Mrs. Victoria Shinaba.