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A Place Where Big Birds Go To Play


By Chippla Vandu


The BAC-1-11s were the noisiest airplanes. Each time they took off, one could hear them roar as though their engines were going to tear out.


It was almost like the sound of heavy thunder during a tropical thunderstorm. One recalls three airlines which operated BAC-1-11s.


These were Okada Air, Kabo Air and Gas Air. Okada and Gas were later to go out of business. Being the de-facto hub of most airlines in Nigeria, Murtala Muhammed Airport at Ikeja in Lagos was always busy.









From my vantage point, one could only clearly get to see airplanes which took off from the domestic wing of the airport.


The international terminal was some way off and though it was often possible to distinguish a Boeing 747 from a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, it was quite difficult discerning what airlines these planes belonged to.


Thus, one always hoped that for some reason, international flights would be diverted to use the runway of the domestic wing, as often did happen.

Next to the BAC-1-11s in terms of the amount of noise generated during take offs were the Boeing 737-200s and 727s. Nigeria Airways and Kabo Air made use of these airplanes.


When a 737-200 took off, the excessive roar of the BAC-1-11 was absent but one could still hear it loud and clear. 737 take offs weren't too spectacular for no other reason than the fact that they occurred every now and then.











Nigeria Airways had about a dozen cities to cover each day. Some cities were visited twice or thrice each day, keeping its domestic workhorse, i.e. 737s, in continuous motion.

About once each day, sometimes once every couple of days, a Nigeria Airways Airbus A310 lifted off from the domestic wing of the airport. This airliner was once used on domestic routes.


The take off of the A310 was a thing of joy. First of all it was very quiet. And I mean really quiet in comparison to the BAC 1-11. Secondly, it looked like a floating airship that was being propelled at a slow speed—most likely an illusion created by its noiseless take off.

Once in a blue moon, a Nigeria Airways DC-10 made use of the domestic runway. Now, this was a huge machine and the largest airplane ever seen using the domestic runway.


It was almost as quiet as the A310 (just a little bit less quiet) and undoubtedly more impressive. One could only wish that there were more DC-10s using the domestic runway for take off!

Military transport planes also used the domestic runway. The Nigerian Air Force, which had a base close by, actually shared the runway with the civil airport authority.


The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was the backbone of military transport. There were a number of C-130 flights each day. Dornier 228 flights also occurred every now and then, but this airplane was too small to be of interest during take off.


No fighter or trainer jets were present at the airport. These were located at bases about 900 km away in Kaduna and 850 km away in Makurdi.








The domestic wing of Murtala Muhammed airport remains busy as ever. Most airlines referred to above have however gone out of business. There is no more Nigeria Airways or Okada Air or Gas Air.


Kabo Air flights are almost exclusively charter flights. BAC-1-11s have been banned since 2002, not because of their noise, but because of a ghastly accident that claimed the lives of all on board.


And a lot of new domestic carriers have sprung up a decade and a half ago—Virgin Nigeria, Bellview Airlines, Aero Contractors, Sosoliso Airlines, EAS Airlines, ADC, SpaceOne Airlines, Chanchangi Airlines, IRS Airlines, Albarka Air and about a dozen others.


All photos obtained from airliners.net


Vandu is a Nigerian writer and academic. He blogs as Chippla.

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