There was pandemonium at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos on Saturday night as a seven-hour closure of the international runway for repairs later turned to a total closure of the Lagos airspace for several hours due to unexpected delays in the rehabilitation work on the Runway 18R.
The seven-hour closure of the Runway 18R ( MMIA international wing’s runway), meant to last from 7am to 2pm, was later extended to 6:30 pm due to unexpected delays in the repair works.
While this lasted, arriving and departing flights were diverted to the local runway (Runway 18L/36R).
However, the situation became worsened when officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria fixing the runway discovered the rehabilitation works would last beyond the sunset, contrary to the programme
Unfortunately, the domestic runway where local and international flights had been diverted does not have lighting facilities for night landing of flights.
The development caused a temporary pandemonium among officials of FAAN and the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority.
However, NAMA later issued a third Notice to Airmen (NOTAM)- an electronic message to pilots and the entire global aviation community-informing that the Lagos airspace had become closed till 11 pm.
The first and second NOTAM had informed pilots of the temporary closure of the runway of the international wing of the airport between 7am and 2pm, and subsequently between 2pm and 6:30pm.
As a result of the temporary closure of the Lagos airspace, several flights due to depart and arrive at Lagos airport in the late evening were hit by several hours of delays, a situation that forced pilots to divert some local and international flights to Abuja, Accra (Ghana) and other airports.
Specifically, a KLM flight from Amsterdam coming to land at the Lagos airport around 7pm was diverted to the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana.
Also, some inbound local flights which were caught up by the sudden closure of the Lagos airspace were forced to divert to Abuja and other airports.
Other flights meant to depart Ilorin, Benin, Port Harcourt and other airports across the country in the late evening were delayed until around 10pm when the Lagos airspace was eventually opened
Also, international flights meant to depart Lagos between 7pm and 9pm were hit by several hours of delays, with some of the pilots complaining that their passengers would miss their connecting flights.
Specifically, Dubai-bound Emirates Airlines, Instanbul-bound Turkish Airlines and Doha-bound Qatar Airways, meant to depart between 7pm and 8pm did not depart until around 10pm when the Lagos airspace was opened.
Airport officials confirmed the majority of the passengers would miss their connections.
FAAN had in a letter dated May 24, 2022, said the closure of the international runway (Runway 18R/36L) would last from 0600hours to 1300hours-UTC on 28, 2022.
According to the letter, rehabilitation works to be carried out on Runway 18R/36L will hold on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) from May 28 to 29, 2022, and June 4 to 5, 2022.
The agency, however, said the runway of the local wing of MMIA, (Runway 18L/36R) would be available for departures and arrivals.
However, the unfortunate development of Saturday appeared to have affected the airlines badly. Officials said FAAN should get its acts together in subsequent closures of the runway on Sunday and next weekend.
Unconfirmed sources said the delays were caused by the late arrival of the contractor to the site while officials said some of the equipment meant for the repair works broke down.
The spokesperson for FAAN, Mrs Faithful Avokerie Hope-Ivbaze, was not available for comments as of the time of filing this report.
Some of the local flights reportedly hit by the delays, especially in Abuja include Dana Air, Ibom Air, Max Air, United Nigeria Air, Aero Contractors, and Air Peace. They were forced to delay their arrivals in Lagos.