The Federal Government on Thursday announced that the two runways at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos have now been calibrated for CAT III ILS and safe for international flights landing.
Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, who made the announcement at a media briefing in Abuja said the Notice to Airmen (NOTAP) had been sent out to that effect.
Mohammed recalled that in recent times, some international flights billed for the airport were being diverted to other airports within and outside the country due to adverse weather conditions at the airport.
The minister apologised to Nigerians and other travellers who had to endure inconveniences resulting from the diversion of their flights.
He, however, denied allegations by some commentators that the navigational equipment CAT III ILS was not bought or installed in the Lagos airport and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Mohammed also said that the accusation of ineptitude against aviation officials was misplaced.
“I will like to quickly take us through what caused the problem. 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, etc. were all marked for an upgrade from Category II Instrument Landing System (CAT II ILS) to top-of-the-class CAT III ILS,” he said.
Mohammed said that in the first phase of the upgrade, the CAT III ILS was procured and installed in Lagos and Abuja.
He said the government, in addition procured a calibration aircraft instead of renting one each time for 500,000 dollars.
“Both Abuja and Lagos airports were calibrated. The CAT III ILS is working perfectly here in Abuja but after calibration, some incorrect readings were noticed in the CAT III ILS at the MMA.’’
“Just as it was about to be re-calibrated, the weather situation in Lagos changed for the worse, hence the disruption of international flights into Lagos. 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,” he said.
The minister, however, noted that when the CAT III ILS in Lagos ran into a hitch, the CAT II ILS at the runway 18R (international runway) remained the only option.
He explained that with CAT II ILS, pilots could only land their planes with a minimum visibility of 800 metres, compared to zero visibility for CAT III ILS.
“The weather phenomenon that reduced visibility at the International wing of the MMA is not unique to Nigeria. While some flights were being diverted from the Lagos airport, over 200 flights were either being diverted or cancelled at Heathrow in London,” he said.
IFEOMA OKEKE with agency report