*…as international flight operations begin in Lagos airport
*Planes can now land in zero-visibility conditions—Minister
By Lawani Mikairu
Minister of Aviation and his Information and Culture counterpart have said the diversion of Lagos-bound flights to Ghana by international airlines was unnecessary, as Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, was in full operation.
This is just as foreign airlines have resumed operations at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, following improvement in weather and visibility, and the installation of a Category III Instrument Landing System, ILS.
For over two weeks all international flights were diverting to Accra, Ghana, due to inclement weather, as visibility at Lagos airport was considered less than the minimum standards.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Thursday, Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, said the newly-installed navigational aid would help aeroplanes land in almost zero-visibility situations.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who confirmed the resumption of international flights to Lagos airport in a statement by his Director, Public Affairs, James Odaudu, expressed appreciation for the understanding of those affected by the situation.
He assured of “government’s determination and commitment to the protection of Nigerian travellers at all times.”
According to Odaudu, “the minister also reiterates that the diversions and cancellations as a result of highly inclement weather conditions are not peculiar to Lagos or Nigeria, but a global phenomenon, as even the most developed nations of the world have been experiencing same, resulting from weather vagaries.”
He also notes the fact that the weather conditions in Lagos, and indeed every airport worldwide, are not something that is noticed at the point of landing, as pilots are regularly updated during the course of the flights and, therefore, in a position to decide on the most appropriate airport to divert to.
According to the Minister, “Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, which has been in full operation, would have been the most appropriate for the affected airlines to divert to, if the overall interest of the Nigerian passengers was considered.”
On his part, the Lai Mohammed said: “In its commitment to passenger safety and security, the Federal Government has recently taken the decision to upgrade the navigational facilities at some major airports across the country.
“Consequently, the navigational aids at airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Asaba, and others, were all marked for an upgrade from Category II instrument landing system, CAT II ILS, to top-of-the-class CAT III ILS.
“Both Abuja and Lagos airports were calibrated. The CAT III ILS is working perfectly here in Abuja.
“Some airlines opted to divert their flights to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, which, by the way, does not even have a CAT III ILS, but where the weather was not as adverse as that in Lagos.
“Many travellers bound for Nigeria became stranded. Again, this is much regretted. Of course, the same flights could have been diverted to Abuja, which has a perfectly-functioning CAT III ILS and where flights to Lagos are regular. But they instead chose to fly to Accra.”
According to Mohammed, some incorrect readings were discovered on the equipment installed in Lagos and the weather situation worsened before the landing system could be recalibrated.