Air Peace 737 Skids Off Flooded Runway at Port Harcourt

An Air Peace flight from Abuja to Port Harcourt skidded off the runway on Saturday 22 June, closing Port Harcourt Airport for over 24 hours.

No one was injured and the airport has since re-opened.

Air Peace Boeing 737
An Air Peace 737-500 skidded off the runway at Port Harcourt this weekend. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Air Peace P47291, a Boeing 737-500, skidded off the flooded runway during heavy rainfall after landing at Port Harcourt’s International Airport. The incident occurred at 3.42pm local time on Saturday. 94 passengers and six crew were on board. All were evacuated safely.

Air Peace Boeing 737
A Air Peace spokesperson advises passengers disembarked “normally”. Source: TolofariG via Twitter

The Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) states that the aircraft left runway 21 about 1,300 metres before the threshold. The aircraft veered off the runway before stopping.

Accident forces closure of Port Harcourt Airport

The single runway airport was closed, pending an investigation into the cause of the accident.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) issued a NOTAM notice closing the airport. It caused the cancellation of several international and domestic flights over the weekend, including Lufthansa, Air France and KLM flights.  Over one thousand passengers were affected.

Air Peace Boeing 737
The aircraft reportedly travelled 200m off the runway. Source: TolofariG via Twitter

A spokesperson for FAAN advised on Sunday afternoon that the Air Peace plane had been removed. The spokesperson also said that the runway needed to be assessed for damage and its ability to adequately drain heavy rainfall. Later that evening, the airport reopened for operations.

The Air Peace accident followed a similar incident in February 2018 at Port Harcourt, when a Dana Air flight landing in heavy rainfall left the runway.

Never heard of Air Peace?

Simple Flying recently gave its readers the rundown on Air Peace.

The Lagos based airline started up in 2013. It flies to 12 destinations throughout Nigeria and scoots throughout West Africa to Ghana, Liberia, Gamiba, Senegal and Sierra Leone. There are also flights up to Sharjah in the UAE.

Air Peace Boeing 737
Air Peace Flight P47291. Source: TolofariG via Twitter

Air Peace recently announced plans to significantly expand its international operations, eyeing Houston, London, Mumbai and Guangzhou as possible destinations. The airline operates a small fleet of older 737-300s and 737-500s in addition to three 777s.

Even in West Africa one cannot escape the 737 MAX crisis. Air Peace has 10 on order.

The airline also uses half a dozen Embraers for local flights and in April 2019 ordered 10 E195-E2s with options for a further 20 more. The deal cost Air Peace USD$2.1 billion and it will be the first time Africa sees the E195 in local skies.

Meanwhile the airline, which has grown to become West Africa’s largest, lost USD$3.1 billion in 2018, a situation Air Peace’s Chairman, Allen Onyema, blamed on Nigeria signing up to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) Treaty.

Is Air Peace safe?

Air Peace has a decent safety record. There have been a couple of hard landings along the way but this weekend’s “runway excursion” is the airline’s most significant incident to date. Nigeria has traditionally had a woeful aviation safety record. but has made efforts to clean its act up in recent years.

Air Peace Boeing 737
Passengers evacuating the Air Peace flight. Source: TolofariG via Twitter

The FAA says Nigeria’s airlines currently operate in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s standards. Aviation markets in West Africa are increasingly seeing professional, well run African airlines like Ethiopian Airlines make inroads locally. This forces local airlines to lift their game or perish.

It’s a big win for West Africa’s air passengers who have long put up with inefficient local airlines, delays, and high ticket prices. 

But Allen Onyema is not a CEO who embraces competition. He calls Nigeria the harshest environment in the world in which to operate a domestic airline, listing a litany of reasons why Air Peace is been financially buffeted.

Saturday’s accident will only ramp up the pressure on Air Peace and Mr Onyema.