The British Airways Flight BA75 flight to Lagos, which was grounded due to bird strikes, has exposed the poor emergency response at the Lagos State Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA).
The incident occurred on December 30, 2020, and the delayed response by the Fire Department of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at the airport almost worsened the incident as smoke engulfed the plane due to hydraulic leakage after the bird strikes.
The British Airways flight operated by Boeing B777-300 aircraft, which left London to Lagos on December 30, 2022, suffered multiple bird strikes on its final approach to land at the international runway, 18R but it managed to land successfully.
The bird strike caused hydraulic leakage, but the aircraft touched down safely and taxied out of the runway but it could not reach the apron because it lost its nose wheel steering, as the hydraulic system in the aircraft indicated zero quantity and smoke was seen from the main landing gear, forcing the aircraft to stop on the taxiway.
The pilot of the flight, called for emergency but there was no response until after 11 minutes when two firemen came to the aircraft with handheld portable fire extinguisher instead of a firefighting truck, which arrived 16 minutes later.
But on a careful examination by the British Airways engineer that accompanied the flight, it was established that hydraulic fluid was dripping onto the hot brakes of the main landing gear of the aircraft, causing the smoke, which could have snowballed into a fire outbreak.
The fire department officials did not prepare for the emergency because the department is on the listening line between the Air Traffic Control and the pilot, so the officials in charge during that time ought to know the situation on ground, as they have direct information about the development.
A former senior official of the Fire Department who has retired, made enquiries about the incident said the firemen were not ready because those on duty when the incident happened were supposed to be kitted in their boots and other insignia but they were not dressed for the emergency.
The Regional Terminal Manager of the Lagos airport, Mrs. Victoria Shin-Aba, who confirmed the incident, confirmed that the Fire Department is on the listening line with ATC and pilots.
She said Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has its processes in responses to different kinds of emergencies, adding that bird strike is a natural phenomenon associated with flights, which is not exclusive to Nigeria.
Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, disclosed that the airline’s aircraft has suffered bird strike many times but noted that the rate has reduced in recent times.
He said that to reduce the incident, FAAN’s Wildlife and Bird’s Department should ensure that the grasses at the airport, especially the runway area, are cut regularly, adding that the catering companies at the airport dump waste on the premises to attract birds.
“We have had a couple of bird strikes but usually our take-offs and landing don’t happen at the times birds come around at the Lagos airport. We agreed during a recent meeting that the catering companies should stop dumping rubbish at a place near the runway, which attracts the birds. I think they have agreed and moved their dumping ground but the birds are still coming,” he said.
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