Aircraft pilots have called on the aviation authorities to shut the Enugu and Benin airports for comprehensive repair of their runways.
They describe the facilities as pathetic.
The pilots say the runways are accidents waiting to happen and have therefore called for the closure of the airports to fix the facility critical to safe landings and take-offs.
This came less than two weeks after the South-East governors called for emergency repairs of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
At a stakeholders’ forum organised by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) in Lagos, one of the pilots, Captain Chris Najomo, said government must quickly address the problem for the safety of air travellers.
According to him, “The runway in Benin Airport is pathetic, dangerous, an accident waiting to happen. Please, let them do something about the Benin Airport; you can close it and resurface it, Benin and Enugu.”
He also pointed out that the second taxiway at the Lagos airport that had been shut for over 10 years should be given attention.
“We are having potholes on the taxiway in Lagos, it is becoming more and more dangerous, so, if we need to do something about it,” Najomo said.
Najomo also stated the need for pilots to be civil when talking to air traffic controllers, just as he urged chief pilots of airlines to enlighten their pilots to respect controllers as, according to him, “80 per cent of them were not disciplined on the radio.” He also appealed to the controllers to do same.
“When a pilot calls the ATC and they refuse to answer, another pilot joins in and another joins in, so it becomes difficult for the controller. Please tell your controllers to, at least, learn to answer the pilot as soon as they call you. We have radar now, so it makes easy for departure clearance.
“I appreciate and commend NAMA for what they have been doing, the airspace is safe now and getting safer and, for them to be more efficient, we need to support NAMA.”
Najomo also called for more efficient departures for all aircraft lined up for take-off, saying that NAMA should send their controllers for on-the-job training to like Heathrow Airport in London or JFK in New York, to understand how departure clearances are done.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Aviation, Alhaji Sabiu Zakari, assured that once investigation was carried out, whatever needs to be done would be done, whether there was budgetary allocation or not.
“Once we carry out technical investigation, what needs to be done will be done, whether or not there was budgetary allocation, just like we did for Abuja airport,” he said.
The Federal Government has commenced move to rehabilitate the Akanu Ibiam International Airport (AIIA), Enugu with plan to demolish illegal structures standing on the runway path.
As part of the planned rehabilitation, there are indications that the runway of the airport may be shut down temporarily as done in Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja last year.
Also, to make the airport operational at night, government has procured Instrument Landing System (ILS) and airfield lighting system, which would be installed once the right of way is acquired.