Arik Air flight nearly crushed a man in ragged clothes and dishevelled hair who stood few metres away from the touch down area at the domestic runway of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, known as Runway 18L about 4:30 pm last Tuesday.
THISDAY learnt that another Arik Air flight bound for Uyo was waiting at the threshold of the runway, known as holding point for the arriving aircraft to land so that it would take off, but as the aircraft was to touch down the passengers and the cockpit crew of the waiting aircraft saw a man walking about near the landing point of the aircraft and escaped being crushed by the tyres and the wing of the aircraft.
When the man identified as mad because of his slovenly, ragged appearance was spared by the aircraft that landed, he walked to the threshold where the Uyo bound flight was waiting and began to knock at the aircraft door, requesting that door be opened for him.
Eye witness account disclosed that the pilot of the aircraft was afraid that the man might walk farther towards the engine of the aircraft and he would be sucked in and roasted, so he quickly switched off the engine of the plane, sustaining the system of the aircraft, including the air conditioning with auxiliary power unit (APU).
At that point the situation had become an emergency so he quickly called the Control Tower and Aviation Security, informing them about the man walking about in the most restricted area of the airport.
The pilot who nearly landed his aircraft on the man was said to have also called the Control Tower immediately he landed and the incident was recorded on the log book by the Air Traffic Controllers who were on duty at the time the incident happened.
“The pilot said that he feared for the man’s life when he came knocking on the aircraft door because few steps would have taken him into the engine of the aircraft that would have roasted him and that was why he quickly switched off the engine. That would have been catastrophic and tragic had it happened that way,” the source explained to THISDAY.
It took 20 minutes before two aviation security vehicles coming from the opposite sides, one from the international side of the runway and the other from the General Aviation Terminal (GAT)and converged before the mad man.
Aviation Security officials jumped out, held him and forced him into one of the vans and whisked him away and it was then that the controllers allowed the aircraft lined up at the holding point to begin to take off.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) explained that the man probably scaled the perimeter fencing to gain entry to the runway.
This incident reinforces the fact that the in spite of the efforts made by the agency, the airport is still porous.
About two weeks ago a stowaway was found dead at the wheel well of Arik Air aircraft and that was the third time a stowaway would be found dead in the wheel well of aircraft at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Few years ago Air France flight nearly hit heads of cattle at the runway of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
Runway incursion has been a regular occurrence at the nation’s airports and this is attributed to lack of perimeter fencing at most of these airports and that is why the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has not certified any of these airports because they have not met accepted safety standards for their certification.
THISDAY learnt from FAAN source that perimeter fencing at the Lagos airport “is not what it should be”; that it is broken down here and there, especially at the Shasha area, adding, “We do carry out regular patrol but when you leave an area for about 30 minutes, somebody who has been watching you will use the opportunity to go in.”
Reacting to this incident, industry operators who spoke to THISDAY said that FAAN should consider it as top priority to complete the perimeter fencing project that is going on in some of the nation’s airports.
One of the operators urged the agency to intensify the regular patrol of the runways and the perimeter area of the airport to ensure that runway incursion such as the above incident, did not happen again.