• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Explainer: Why aeroplanes skid off runways in Nigeria

Flights divert as Niger shut down airspace

Over the years, the Nigerian aviation industry has experienced serious incidents of aircraft skidding off the runway.

An event in which an aircraft veers off or overruns the runway surface during either take-off or landing is called ‘skidding off the runway.’

Last year, in November, two aircraft from two different airlines skidded off the runway, in one week.

Aero Contractors, flight NG 119 with a registered Boeing 737 aircraft 5N-BYQ from Lagos to Abuja had a total of 133 passengers on board.

All passengers were safely evacuated through a controlled disembarkation.

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In the same week, an aircraft operated by ValueJet Airline slipped on a taxi turn after landing and cleared off the runway at Port Harcourt airport at 3.30 local time. No damage was done to the aircraft.

United Airlines also recorded an incident in September 2023 where its aircraft also skidded off the runway. Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu, the head of corporate communications, said the flight had successfully operated and landed at its destination, having arrived from the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport in Owerri.

However, upon touching down in the downpour, the plane’s tyres lost grip on the wet surface, making it skid off the runway.

The most recent incident is a Dana Air aircraft skidding off the runway.

Dana Air’s aircraft on Tuesday morning skidded off the runway.

The airline had 83 passengers and crew onboard the flight who disembarked safely without injuries.

In the past, several other airlines have had similar incidents, especially at the Lagos airport runway.

Many factors may cause a runway excursion or an overshoot including runway contamination, adverse weather conditions, mechanical failure, pilot error and unstable approaches.

Horace Miller-Jaja, a captain with over 40 years of experience, told BusinessDay that runway 18L has had a history of being slippery when it rains.

“The Lagos airport has an asphalt runway, no grooves. Drainage has often been an issue. One would want to ask when the runway was rubberised last in preparation for the coming rainy season. ,” Miller-Jaja said.

Read also: FAAN reopens Lagos runway after Dana incident

He however hinted that for pilots to avoid skidding off the runway there has to be a positive landing on the runway with directional control using the rudder pedals for directional control; not nose wheel steering.

He also suggested that pilots could also use the auto brake if the aircraft has the device.

Ibrahim Mshelia, a captain and owner of West Link Airlines Nigeria and Mish Aviation Flying School said that factors that lead to aircraft overshooting the runway include water on the runway, anti-skip failure, (a situation where aircraft fails to roll properly with parking brake handle), microburst, tyre burst and inadequate pilot skills.

Mshelia however explained that these are not serious issues in aviation.

“There are issues peculiar with flying planes. We make a big deal out of almost everything in Nigeria. Planes landing and skidding off the runway is not unusual.

“The fact that it has occurred more than twice in a short period doesn’t mean anything. For us as pilots, it is a normal incident. When the Accident Investigation Bureau makes their findings, they will advise us as to what happened. Skidding off the runway is not abnormal,” he explained.

Aquaplaning or hydroplaning, a situation where a layer of water on the runway prevents the aircraft’s tyres from making proper contact, causing it to lose traction and slide; also leads to aircraft overshooting the runway. This was what happened in the case of United Nigeria Airlines.