• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Lagos airport risks bird strikes, air pollution as refuse piles


With heaps of refuse in various spots at the Lagos airport, stakeholders are concerned that this will result in increased cases of bird strikes and air pollution.

A visit to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) and Murtala Muhammed Local Airport, (MMA2) by BusinessDay on Tuesday showed heaps of refuse at various spots at the airport environment, as passengers complained of offensive odour emanating from the refuse dump areas.

Areas with the most refuse are junction opposite the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) and junction at the local garage opposite the Forte Oil fueling station.

This is coupled with reports of refuse being generated at the airside which if not quickly evacuated would attract birds to the area which may lead to bird strike and flight delays.

This development is coming few months after the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) terminated the contract of the waste disposal and evacuation company, Guesstimate Environmental Protection Company and replaced it with another, Neeb Energy.

Airlines and stakeholders have complained that the pile of wastes would not only lead to air pollution endangering the health of passengers but will also attract birds that could damage the engines of aircraft.

Bird strike is the collision between an airborne animal and a moving aircraft, often damaging the aircraft engines.

“The menace of bird strikes on aircraft operations is one of the most serious hazards we face and the presence of refuse dumps anywhere in the vicinity of the airport does not help,” Obiukwu Mbanuzuo, chief commercial officer, Green Africa, told BusinessDay.

Mbanuzuo said airlines already gave the threat of birds in the airfield, stressing that the heaps of refuse add to this and highlights the low level of priority the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) places on the issue.

According to data by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), 93 bird strike incidents occurred across Nigerian airports in the first half of 2022.

Out of the number, 54 of such bird strike incidents happened at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos alone.

Olumide Ohunayo, an aviation analyst, told BusinessDay that bird strikes can deter safe arrival and take-off of aircraft from airports.

“One of the things that breach safety is a flock of birds on the aircraft engine. This causes damage to engines. When this damage happens, the aircraft is grounded and the airline may be faced with the huge cost of getting a new engine coupled with the crisis of dollar scarcity,” Ohunayo said.

According to him, bird strikes would affect the downtime of the aircraft and how it affects their schedules and integrity.

He called on the management of FAAN to immediately find a way of clearing the refuse.

“Apart from the bird strike effects, there would be environmental pollution which would have health implications on passengers and staff working within the airport.

“Interim actions need to be taken to ensure that birds do not fly within the airport and save us from the huge costs of getting new engines,” he said.

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the umbrella body of airlines in the country, said that its members lost $60 million (N34.5 billion at N575 to a dollar at the time) to bird strikes suffered by their aircraft in 2021, saying the trend was on the increase.

John Ojikutu, former military commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, said the issues of bird strikes should not be new to FAAN and had been there since the 1990s but got worst in the early 2000 when FAAN had to establish a department of Ornithology and employ Ornithologist but the department was later disbanded.

Ojikutu said the refuse accumulation was one of the attractions of birds to the airport, the surrounding bush, forests and streams are also the attractions.

Read also: Customs at Lagos airport recorded N20.9bn revenue in 2022

He advised FAAN to re-establish the design of Ornithology to sustain the fight against bird strikes in the airports, adding that the short term solution would be to quickly get rid of wastes around the airport and continue the regular cutting of the bush.

“The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has to engage in oversight and enforcement. I am not really sure if the airlines’ insurance covers such incidents. If they do and the cost of damages to the engines of the aircraft are estimated for payments, FAAN would have known how its earnings would be depleting regularly because of bird strikes.

“If foreign airlines get their insurance companies involved in any bird strikes, the NCAA surely will take part in the cost or payments of insurance. All the bird strikes are getting unnoticed because the insurance companies are not involved in the loss of engines,”Ojikutu said.