SENATE MOVES AGAINST VIP ABUSES AT AIRPORTS
Against the backdrop of frequent suspension of flights in the air, the Senate will today consider a motion seeking to stop abuse of Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) order by Nigerian airport commandants and security officials.
The motion, already in order paper, is being sponsored by senator Osita izunaso and 29 others.
The planned motion, followed a recent incident in which an Arik Air, Boeing 737 700 series flight from Lagos to Abuja and six other flights were, suspended mild-air for a long time without prior warning because a Very Important Person (VIP) was allegedly using the airport.
According to Mr. Izunaso, the seven aircraft were 'not given advance notice of any VIP movement in Abuja before take-off as is the procedure in other parts of the world.'
On that day, the Arik aircraft was said to have been turned back into the sky after the pilot had already pulled out its tyres to land. Shortly after, the pilot made back into the air, he was given clearance to land but for two more times, he was ordered back to the sky after he had pulled out tyres to touch down.
According to the order paper, the senators believe this practice was dangerous and endangered both the VIP and the passengers on board the stranded aircraft because most times, the airport commandants and the security officials did not consider the fuel level or other technical challenges of the aircraft being turned away.
'A TFR is action taken by the airport authorities to restrict flight operations for a specified amount of airspace, on a temporary basis, in order to provide protection of person(s) or property in the air or on the ground.
'In United States, before the September 11, 2001 attacks, most TFRs were in the interest of safety to flying aircraft with occasional small restrictions for Presidential movements. Since 9/11, TFRs have been routinely used to restrict airspace for 30 nautical miles around the President, with a 10-nautical-mile (20 km) radius no-fly zone for non-scheduled flights,' the lawmaker argued.
According to Mr. Izunaso, 30 nautical miles for planned VIP flights and 10 nautical miles for unscheduled flights restrictions was the global standard but in Nigeria, the airport commandants and security officials, including the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authorities, flagrantly abuse the process.
'VIP movement in Nigeria is indefinite, abrupt, erratic and unpredictable,' Mr. Izunaso argued saying the strict adherence to the engagement rules of the TFR would be in the interest of both the VIPs and the passengers in general.
He narrated a similar incident in India where three aircraft were turned away from the Delhi Airport with about 450 passengers on board and had a narrow shave with mishap when they all ran out of fuel above the Jaipur airport.
'The Indian aviation authorities urgently reacted to the incident and expeditiously rectified TFR abuses with the aim to permanently forestall a re-occurrence of these incidents,' Mr. Izunaso said.
When the motion is probably taken today, the senate will be asking that the airport commandants and Air Traffic controllers at the towers give sufficient notice of VIP movements and consequent TFR orders to airlines prior to take-off and landing to enable the pilots take necessary safety precautions. The senate is also expected to condemn the indiscriminate use of the TFR orders in the past and commission an investigation into the flagrant use and abuse of the TFR based on VIP movements.