The issue, which led to the cancellation of British Airways and Kenya Airways flights to Sierra Leone over the weekend, sends out a really bad signal for our airport authorities.
It shows that the issue of security is not being given the importance it deserves. We believe that the paramount issue for any airport in the world is first the safety and security of passengers before any of the attendant comforts that passengers should enjoy.
Therefore even though renovations, additions and a facelift exercise is going on, there can be no excuse for the Airport authorities to neglect the safety of passengers. This is to say the least – unacceptable behaviour.
What this singular lapse has done is to cause our airport to be suspect. If our airport cannot maintain its ordinary fire engines which are regarded as the most basic of standard equipment any airport is supposed to have then commercial airlines will now harbour doubts about whether other things claimed by the Lungi airport authorities are actually working.
Furthermore it sends a bad signal to other international airlines, about the level of attention that is paid to safety concerns in our airport. Indeed it would alert such commercial airline officials that they must henceforth check and cross-check that what is said is actually on the ground and in good condition before they accept to use the airport.
Moving forward it seems that the concentration has been in expanding and showing development. Again we ask the question if the authorities cannot maintain two functioning fire engines, when the number of flights increase due to the expansion and we get three or four flights landing one after the other how will we be able to take care of such a situation?
All of this calls into question the intent with which we carry out our strategic development. In this case the authorities have obviously overlooked a very important issue such that the whole credibility of the airport is now being questioned.
Naturally we would call for heads to roll in this issue because it is certainly negligence at the highest level. Such lapses cannot and should not be tolerated. This is because the consequences are far more damaging. Suppose that an airplane had been forced to land in an emergency, which can happen at anytime and we suddenly find out that the fire engine is not working, will we be ready to prosecute for murder those responsible for this lapse?
We believe that while the authorities have been skimming all sorts of charges making flight tickets higher than our neighbours they should have thought of buying at least four new fire engines such that if the two are faulty they can be replaced quickly.
We do not want to hazard a guess but we are sure the broken down fire engine is over 20 years old. This is why to get the parts is even so difficult because there is every likelihood that the model we are using has long since been taken off the production line.
This is usually when we call into question the excessive user fees that we are paying to the airport authorities. It is nothing but criminal for the airport authorities to extort such monies from us and yet not use them for their intended purposes.
This is why we call for an investigation into the running of the airport. When people collect such monies and then criminally neglect the safety of passengers, then there must be sanctions to ensure that whoever runs the airport fully understands that the safety of passengers cannot be joked with.
May God Help Sierra Leone
Tuesday March 11, 2014