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    Tuesday, December 22, 2015

    Aero, FAAN Bicker Over Airport Ladder Incident

    The management of Aero Contractors Airline has said it is not responsible for the unfortunate incident that occurred on Saturday in which passengers of a chartered flight disembarked from its aircraft using a ladder.
    The airline said on Monday that it was assured of adequate ground handling services by the Bauchi Airport Manager before it embarked on the flight from Abuja with its B737-500 series with registration 5N-BLG.
    Addressing journalists at its head office in Lagos on Monday, the Accountable Manager and Acting Managing Director, Aero, Capt. Russell Lee Foon, stressed that the airline’s Head of Ground Operations, Mr. Peter Omata, confirmed the handling of the flight through the airport manager, Mr. H. Abubakar, and that he also confirmed on many occasions the availability of the air stairs and the cost.
    He explained that prior to leaving Abuja, the flight dispatcher contacted the airport manager to advise that the aircraft was taxing out and he confirmed that they were ready to receive the flight.
    Le Foon said, “At 10:42, the aircraft touched down on Runway 35 at Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa International Airport, the controller advised the crew that due to the absence of marshallers and no ramp officials of any sort, parking would be at their own discretion.
    “At 10.44, the flight dispatcher on board contacted the Airport Manager to advise him that they were on the ground, to which he confirmed that he was seeing the aircraft on taxi and that they were waiting. 

    “After parking, the captain said they waited for up to 10 minutes for the stairs to be brought to the aircraft but no assistance or stairs came to the aircraft. He informed the passengers of the situation as they were beginning to get agitated. What was not known to the crew at the beginning of the flight was that a groom and some wedding guests were on board the flight. The wedding was to start in another 20 minutes.
    “At 10.57, the crew called the controller to enquire why there was no one to position the stairs to the aircraft and they were told that the stairs had just broken down and that the fire services men were making provisions to sort it out,” Lee Foon said.
    He added that after waiting for another five to seven minutes, the passengers became furious as they were now getting late for the wedding ceremony.
    “At that point, the captain explained to them that he may have to take them back to Abuja as they cannot disembark due to lack of stairs. But they insisted that he cannot keep them on board the aircraft. Besides, he considered that their anger was becoming potentially threatening for the crew to take them back to Abuja.

    “The alternative which the Fire services provided was a ladder, which the passengers took as an option and on their own free will, decided to use the ladder to disembark against the wishes of the captain and the crew members. The captain allowed this procedure in order to reduce what he thought was a volatile situation.”
    Reacting to suggestions that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria may be culpable of the lapses in Aero Contractors’s use of unauthorised equipment at Bauchi Airport, its General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Yakubu Dati, said FAAN had nothing to do with the incident.
    “The Bauchi Airport is managed by the Bauchi State Government and FAAN only provides statutory services at the airport such as aircraft marshalling, aviation security services and fire cover. The authority does not provide handling services for Aero Contractors and therefore does not understand why it should be held responsible for the non-provision of appropriate equipment for passengers’ disembarkation.

    “We also do not understand why the absence of marshallers on the apron, as claimed by the airline, could cause the use of an unauthorised equipment for the disembarkation of passengers from the aircraft,” Dati added.
    But the special adviser to Bauchi State Governor on Media, Yakubu Muhammad, in a statement, said FAAN and not the state government was responsible for the maintenance and management of the airport.
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