By Sade Williams
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has declared the alleged and reported Runway 18R burglary attempt on the Cargo Hold of Air Peace as unfounded.
The NCAA in a statement issued on Sunday and signed its spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, said the conclusion was arrived at after the Regulatory Authority reviewed all the reports from the relevant agencies concerning the incident and it was unproven.
Last week, there were reports that the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) of Air Peace Flight no. APK 7138 with Aircraft no. 5N-BUJ had alerted the Lagos Control Tower that the Aircraft’s AFT Cargo Compartment has been opened.
According to the Pilot in his report to the Tower, he noticed that the Cargo Compartment light came up for 15 seconds and went off. This means someone has opened the compartment’s door.
The Air Traffic Controller on duty confirmed receiving the report at about 1933hrs (1833GMT).
“In line with Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs), Aviation Security personnel were at the Holding Point of Runway 18R monitoring the departure/take off of both Air Peace and Arik Air aircraft.
“The PIC alarm triggered an immediate response. The Escort team overtook the Arik aircraft for a more proximate field look and access to the Air Peace Aircraft.
“On full speed, with the full lights on, no person(s) was found within the vicinity of the aircraft. “Importantly, the Arik aircraft which was on queue immediately after the Air Peace aircraft was similarly put on observation at this point”, the statement reads.
The Authority continued by saying that ‘the Arik Air aircraft also had its full complement of lights on towards the Air Peace aircraft having being aware of his counterpart’s conversation with the Tower. With benefit of this full view, neither movement nor any sign of person(s) was sighted around the aircraft.
“Thereafter the Air Peace PIC requested to taxi back to the Apron at D45 to check if anything had been stolen. In addition, he wanted to clear his doubts that a bomb may have been thrown into the aircraft.
“At D45, the Airport Chief Security called the NPF-EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) team who reported with their equipment at about 2026hrs.
“Passengers were disembarked at 2028hrs. The EOD team joined by FAAN’s Aviation Security and Air Peace Security conducted a search on the Cargo compartment and the passenger cabin of the aircraft.
The search, it said, was completed at about 2055hrs and the aircraft was declared safe by the EOD Team leader.
Speaking further, Audurogboye said: The Air Peace PIC therefore briefed the passengers of the EOD’s all clear decision and that the service shall be operated. All passengers re-boarded and the aircraft was escorted to the holding area for take – off by the Escort teams from FAAN AVSEC and the Military Airside Patrol.
“The flight departed and landed safely at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Therefore, against this background, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) came to the conclusion that the Runway 18R burglary report is unproven, largely unsubstantiated and therefore should be discountenanced.
“All stakeholders should be informed that all aviation agencies are well motivated and prepared to carry out their responsibilities at all times”, he said.
It would be recalled that Air Peace had alleged last Thursday that suspected thieves opened the cargo hold of its Flight 7138 holding for departure on Runway 18R (A1) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos at about 7.35pm.