The Liberia Airport Authority has apologized for a late-night power outage at the Roberts International Airport, which forced an inbound Brussels Airlines flight to return to Freetown, after attempting to land.
The incident caused panic over the safety of the passengers aboard the aircraft. The power outage, which lasted for about 30 minutes, according to the RIA’s Acting Managing Director, Martin Hayes, was due to a power switchover at the Roberts Flight Information Region (FIR). The FIR provides electricity for the RIA control tower and the runway.
In a statement, the RIA management said the agency regretted the disruption that occurred on April 27, causing many passengers to be frightened. “The Management of the Liberia Airport Authority regrets the inconvenience experienced by SN 241 on April 27, at Roberts International Airport, which was caused by a technical glitch,” the release said.
The release added that “the issue was resolved in record time, and that Air France landed within twenty minutes of the occurrence, and then followed by SN Brussels subsequently. At no time, during or before this technical occurrence, was there a power outage at the Roberts International Airport, nor was the airport ever closed," the release noted. "The approach control was in communication with the Aircraft at all times until they made the decision to divert.”
Hayes earlier told the Daily Observer that the FIR was switching over from its solar power system to its generator power system.
“The runway lights are switched on from within the control tower. When the power goes off and is turned back on, it takes time for the entire lighting and control tower system to be fully restored,” Hayes told the Observer in a telephone interview.
During the 30-minute power outage, just as Brussels Airlines decided to return to Freetown from whence it came, another inbound aircraft, Air France, entered the airspace in time as the lights were restored on the runway. Brussels Airlines aircraft did return to Freetown and returned again to RIA at about shortly before 10 pm.
The April 27 blackout at the airport forced the Brussels aircraft, which was scheduled to land at about 7:15 p.m. to return to Freetown. The in-flight cabin crew announced to passengers that “the airport in Monrovia is closed because there is no electricity” and that the aircraft could not make contact with the control tower, some people feared the worst and began calling for prayers for the safety of the passengers on board.
The announcement did not bode well for some passengers on the flight, especially those who boarded the aircraft in Freetown. For them, a return to Freetown would cause them to be late for connecting flights in Brussels to destinations onward.
This inconvenience caused a huge row in-flight as some passengers decried what they described as ineptitude on the part of the RIA management and, by extension the George Manneh Weah administration. The latest electricity problem at the airport comes just a few weeks after former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf blamed darkness at the RIA for the failure of more dignitaries to attend the funeral of Dr. Amos Sawyer, former interim of Liberia.
Meanwhile, the RIA management has said it reassures all airport users that “we are committed to ensuring their safety.”