Nigerian and foreign airlines recorded at least 127 bird strike incidents in 21 months across the nation’s 26 airports, statistics emanating from the industry have revealed.
Statistics released by participants at an event by the Search and Rescue Mission of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) on Wednesday in Lagos, indicated that the industry experienced 34 bird strike incidents in 2021, but grew massively to 93 as at September 17, 2022, across the country’s airports.
The majority of accidents caused by bird strikes occur when the bird is either sucked into the engine of a jet or when the bird flies into the windscreen.
Out of the 93 incidents arising from bird strikes, 58 of such happened at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos alone within the period.
Speaking at the event, Head Bird/Wildlife Hazard Control, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr. Azike Edozie, decried the high incidents arising from bird strikes in the industry.
Edozie, however, said that the responsibility of keeping the airspace safe from bird strike incidents lied with every stakeholder in the industry, including airline operators, security agencies and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
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He expressed hope that the respective agencies would find a lasting solution to the menace soon, decrying that airlines were losing millions of dollars to the incident annually.
He said: ”My record shows that we have had at least 93 bird strike incidents in all our airports between January this year to June. And out of this number, 54 of it happened in Lagos Airport alone, which represents about 70% of the total occurrences.
”We all have to proffer a solution to this menace and I do hope we have a lasting solution to it because everyone, especially the airlines is losing money.”
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Also, Head of Unit, Bird Control, FAAN, Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, Mr. Adetunji Adetutu, in his presentation pointed out that no airline was immune from the incident of bird strikes.
Adetutu explained that FAAN as the airport landlord was doing its best to curb the spread of the incident through the procurement of modern equipment, which he said had gone a long way to reduce its impacts.
He also blamed some of the pilots for the high bird strike rates in the industry, stressing that some of the pilots were always in a hurry to depart an airport for the other and violate the instructions of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC).
Insisted that it was necessary for the airlines and their pilots to also have a change of culture by adhering to the instructions issued by ATCs.
According to him, 98% of bird strike incidents occurred at the airports, especially when taking off and landing.
He said: ”The final say on what happens to the aircraft lies with the pilots. Until the ATC gives clearance for pilots to depart or land, it is necessary for pilots to listen to their advice.
”Airline operators should have a change of culture on how we carry out our duties. It’s the suitability of the environment that bring birds to the airport environment. We have water, shelter and food around the airports. The runway should be free of activities at take off and landing.”
He emphasised further that most of the birds that cause havoc at the airports migrate from other continents to Africa at a particular time of the season.
Also, Mr. Olanrewaju Iwalaye, Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, NAMA, said it was necessary for all stakeholders to curb the actinides of bird strike incidents at the airport with the procurement of advanced equipment.
Iwalaye, however, observed that FAAN had in recent times improved with the procuring of equipment to reduce the incidence.
He added that the same programme was simultaneously going on in all the major airports across the country, including the Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Omagwa, Aminu Kano International Airport (AKIA), Kano and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Port Harcourt.
‘We need to find a way to address this challenge. Birds are in their natural habitant and most of our airports are built close to the forest.
‘Apart from birds, we also have wildlife animals, which are also strikes. We hope to propose on mitigation in order to address it. We also need to know the activities of birds too. Statistics that was given earlier indicate that 93 bird incidents were recorded as at September 17, 2022, but 32 of this occurred in just two months.”
Airline Operators of Nigeria outcry
Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the umbrella body of indigenous carriers in the country had earlier in the year, decried the loss of $60 million to bird strike incidents in Nigeria.
The airlines had amented poor infrastructure at the entire airports in the country as some of the major challenges confronting the growth of the airlines, stressing that these were making them to lose billions of naira annually.
Barr. Allen Onyema, the Vice President of AON, who spoke on behalf of the others said that rather than castigate the operating airlines for flight delays and cancellations, the flying public should be informed of the poor infrastructure at the airports, which he said lead to delays and cancellations.
According to Onyema, Air Peace alone in 2021 suffered 14 bird strikes, which affected its engines, while so far in 2022, the airline had suffered four bird strike incidents.
He insisted that this would not have happened if the agency responsible for chasing away the wildlife was up and doing in the discharge of its duties, while the refunds due to delayed and cancelled flights would have also gone to the purse of the airlines.
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