Liberia: SN Brussels Cancels Flights to Monrovia over Safety Concerns at the Roberts International Airport


Monrovia – The deplorable state of Roberts International Airport’s safety measures is embarrassingly costing the country a great deal including a sanction from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the cancellation of the only Europe-bound flight from Liberia.

A statement from SN Brussels disclosed that it is forced to cancel its flights between Brussels and Monrovia because the Roberts International Airport is suffering from certain deficiencies that do not allow them to dispatch their aircraft and have them perform an approach and landing in accordance with their operating procedures.

Belgium’s Aviation laws prevent its aircraft from landing without a functioning navigation system.

FrontPageAfrica gathered from aviation sources that SN Brussels has for the past three months been landing using its own systems and by sight.

SN Brussels: “It is of the utmost importance that we operate each and every flight in a safe, secure and compliant manner. Therefore, we urge the airport of Monrovia to comply with the regulations implied by ICAO as soon as possible. In the meantime, Brussels Airlines sees itself forced to cancel its flights between Brussels and Monrovia. All passengers impacted by these cancellations will be contacted by Brussels Airlines.”

Aviation sources informed FrontPageAfrica that ICAO has given Liberia three months to replace the damaged equipment, including the navigation systems and the Instrument Landing System (ILS) Localizer.

The ILS is a system of horizontal guidance in the instrument landing system, which is used to guide aircraft along the axis of the runway. FrontPageAfrica further gathered that ILS System can cost up to US$10 million.

The ICAO had warned the airport management to halt the issuance of Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) because the previous grace period to have the system fixed has expired.

NOTAM is a notice filed with an aviation authority to alert aircraft pilots of potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the flight.

SN Brussels for the past three months used NOTAM to land at the Roberts International Airport but has informed the airport authorities that it can no longer continue to risk its aircraft and flout Belgium aviation laws.

It is unclear whether the malfunction is linked to the recent dismissal of the Deputy Managing Director for Technical Services at the RIA.

It can be recalled that on Wednesday, 27 April, Brussels Airlines re-routed flight SN241 to Freetown (FNA), Sierra Leone, after the Airbus A330-300 registered OO-SFC suddenly aborted landing at Roberts International Airport (due to a power outage at the airport and on the runway.

In February, Royal Air Maroc aborted landing for the same reason and subsequently suspended flights to Monrovia. Upon its return, the airline rescheduled all its early morning flights to and from Monrovia.

Aviation experts tell FrontPageAfrica that if urgent measures are not put in place by the Liberia Airport Authority, only a few regional airlines might be flying to Monrovia at an exorbitant cost.

It can be recalled that at the height of the crisis at the airport, the former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, told reporters that the government would need up to US$20 million to fix all problems at the airport.

Min. McGill in May this year said, the government had embarked on plans to address the airport electricity issue, but other key problems facing the airport also deserved attention. 

“The problem at the airport is not just electricity but it’s holistic, including the apron which was never renovated during the over US$50 million RIA’s renovation project,” the former Minister said. 

“Information received says the new terminal and jetway cannot be used because where the planes park were never touched over the last 50 years. As a government, we are looking at the entire airport and solving those problems and it will cost around US$20 to US$23 million with the estimate done,” Mr. McGill said.   

The Roberts International Airport was built in 1942, via a Defense Pact with the United States. It was originally built by the U.S. government as an Air Force base as part of these activities. The runway was built long enough for B-47 Stratojet bombers to land for refueling, giving Liberia what was for many years the longest runway in Africa. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had lunch with President Edwin J. Barclay at Roberts Field during his visit to Liberia in January 1943. From 1943 to the end of World War II in 1945, Roberts Field Airport, as it was then known, served as an alternative base for a contingent of 26 Squadron SAAF which flew Vickers Wellington bombers on anti-submarine (U-Boat) and convoy escort patrols