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FG reopens Lagos airport runway after closure

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Significant disruptions to air traffic and airline schedules were experienced.

After nearly a year of maintenance repairs, the 3.9km Runway 18R/36L at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos has finally been reopened by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. Originally scheduled to last for eight weeks, the closure of the international runway had caused significant disruptions to air traffic and airline schedules, lasting much longer than anticipated. In March 2023, FAAN announced the temporary closure of the runway, which has now been almost 11 months.

While repairs were ongoing, international and local airlines had to resort to using runway 18L/36R, which is typically reserved for domestic flights. Now, with the addition of Links 2 and 3 on the taxiway, international airlines have a new runway option besides relying on the shorter domestic runway 18L/36R. The recently repaired runway measures 3,900 meters in length and 60 meters in width. Kenya Airways was the first airline to land on the restored runway, receiving a special reception to commemorate its reopening for use.

Unresolved issues caused a bit of delay in its opening.

However, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency previously released a Notice to Airmen stating that the runway would be open after midnight on February 15. Despite this, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority inspectors prevented airlines from using the runway at the last minute due to unresolved issues. It wasn’t until around 10am on Saturday, more than 24 hours after the NOTAM announcement, that airlines were finally given permission to land on the runway. The new runway will offer relief to both domestic and international airlines operating at the airport.

Olubunmi Kuku, the Managing Director of FAAN, mentioned during a recent inspection of vehicular movement at MMIA that runway 18R/36L will be fully opened soon. She revealed that the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, and Airline Operators of Nigeria are working together to speed up the process using an interim approach. She acknowledged that there were initial delays with the 18Right part of the runway. The contractor has been requested to return to the site promptly to fix the issues. Both the Honourable Minister and the Permanent Secretary are fully supportive of this decision.

FAAN’s commitment to reducing obstacles and smooth operations.

The reopening of the facility is scheduled within a few weeks, and there is hopeful anticipation for its success. The stakeholders have been patiently awaiting its return, and efforts are being made to expedite the process. The wait time is expected not to be long, with a timeline of six weeks for the runway repairs. Despite some setbacks, the team is committed to achieving the best outcome possible. Kuku remained steadfast in FAAN’s commitment to reducing unforeseen obstacles and guaranteeing a smooth restart of operations.

MMIA stands as Nigeria’s most bustling airport, acting as a crucial centre for domestic and international carriers. It features two runways, one dedicated to international flights and the other for domestic operations. However, the domestic runway encountered restrictions for more than 14 years because of the lack of airfield lighting and other essential elements. Air Field Lighting repairs were completed in November 2022, restoring full 24/7 operations to the domestic runway with fixed approach lights, threshold and centre runway lights, edge lights, and others. Following the airfield lighting installation on the domestic runway, maintenance work began on the international runway (18R).

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Experts warn that runway closures, like the recent maintenance period, can have significant financial implications for both airlines and airports. International flights were temporarily rerouted to the domestic runway, which has now been upgraded with advanced lighting and amenities to allow for continuous 24-hour operation. This shift in traffic management was necessary to ensure minimal disruptions during the maintenance period. When airports experience runway closures, their profits are impacted as they rely on landing fees from airlines to generate income.

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