Questions over NOTAMs before Abuja 747 accident

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A recent Boeing 747-200 freighter accident at Abuja airport, Nigeria was originally reported as a runway excursion, but it seems the aircraft was the victim of runway resurfacing work which, according to NOTAMs, was supposed to have been completed.

The 4 December Saudia flight from Jeddah to Abuja was being operated by Armenia-registered Veteran Airlines.

Original NOTAMs providing details of work in progress on Abuja’s runway 22 lapsed on 3 December, the day before the flight, and were not renewed immediately despite the fact that work was still in progress.

The flight took off from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 4 December at 15:30UTC bound for Abuja, but the runway restriction NOTAM was reissued at 15:46UTC, 16min after the 747’s take-off and 6h 46min after its stated effectiveness time.

The NOTAM stated there was “rehabilitation work” in progress on runway 22 between links A2 and A3, that take-off distance had been reduced to 2,500m, and the runway in use was the opposite-direction runway 04. The crew had calculated they would need 2,800m and assumed it would be available.

Runway obstruction information, according to the airline, was not repeated on the airport terminal information system broadcast to which crews listen before beginning an approach, and the crew says it was not informed by air traffic control.

When the pilots saw obstruction lights ahead, they swung the aircraft off the runway to the right, hoping to avoid hitting a resurfacing plant, but collided with equipment and the 747 suffered serious damage. The airport had to be closed for hours but was reopened the next day.

NOTAMs announcing the runway reopening were issued at 16:30UTC on 5 December, restating the same runway restrictions. The 26-year-old General Electric CF6-50E2-powered aircraft is being dismantled on site.