In recent times, the Nigerian aviation industry have experienced serious incidents of aircraft overshooting runway.
The Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) defines a runway excursion or aircraft overshooting runway as “An event in which an aircraft veers off or overruns the runway surface during either take-off or landing.” Runway excursions lead to more runway accidents than all the other causes combined.
In the month of November, in the space of one week, two aircraft belonging to two different airlines overshot the runway.
Aero Contractors, Nigeria’s oldest aviation company has said it is cooperating with the relevant agencies following a recent runway incursion at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja recently.
The affected 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.
In the same week, an aircraft which was operated by ValueJet airline, slipped on taxi turn after landing and cleared off the runway at Port Harcourt airport at 3.30 local time.
Findings show that no damage was done to the aircraft.
Stanley Balami, a captain at Value Jet who confirmed the incident said the aircraft had stopped on the runway and executed the second turn off when he encountered a slip due to algea by taxi on the turn off.
In the past, several other airlines have had similar incidents.
There are many factors that may cause a runway excursion or an overshoot including runway contamination, adverse weather conditions, mechanical failure, pilot error and unstable approaches. This briefing will focus only on unstable approaches.
Ibrahim Mshelia, a captain and owner of West Link Airlines Nigeria and Mish Aviation Flying School told BDWeekender 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 twice in short period doesn’t mean anything. For us as pilots, it is a normal incident. When 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 tires 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 in September, 2023.
According to the statement by the Head Corporate Communications, Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu, 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 tires lost grip on the wet surface, resulting in the skid off the runway.
Stakeholders have said audit has to be carried out on the airlines and the airport to avoid more incidents and accidents in the coming days.
Musa Nuhu, the Director General of NCAA, had earlier revealed that the audit of all airports would be carried out soon and that any of the airports found deficient would be grounded.
The audit is coming shortly after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) carried out audit across Nigerian airports and scored the country 70 percent, stressing that the NCAA needs to close the gaps on infrastructures, aerodrome and ground aids, air navigation services, qualified technical personnel and surveillance and resolution of safety concern.
Nuhu said Nigeria will stop at nothing to close the gaps indicated during the last ICAO audit, even if it means shutting down many airports.