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MIAA appeals for understanding, cooperation among air travelers in cases of ‘lightning red alerts’

Bryan Co
MIAA officer-in-charge Bryan Co explains red lightning alerts. (JERRY S. TAN)

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) Officer-in-Charge Bryan Co is appealing for the understanding and cooperation of the air riding public in times when flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are temporarily put on hold due to inclement weather conditions and lightning strikes.

Co said that in cases where necessary, the MIAA Airport Ground Operations and Safety Division (AGOSD) issues ‘Lightning Red Alerts’, leading to the temporary suspension of all flight and ground operations at NAIA until the alert is lowered to a Lightning Yellow Alert, indicating the resumption of flight operations.

“We kindly ask for the cooperation and understanding of every passenger when ramp operations are suspended for safety reasons during a Lightning Red Alert,” said Co.

“While aircraft at NAIA are protected from lightning strikes through the presence of lightning arresters, these alerts primarily prioritize the safety of people on the ground, which is of paramount importance for us as an airport operator,” Co stressed.

He further explained that NAIA is equipped with a total of 20 lightning arresters and four lightning shelters strategically located at the ramp area. These lightning arresters, he said, are devices designed to protect electrical and telecommunication facilities from the damaging effects of lightning. They capture and direct lightning surges onto the ground, where they are safely absorbed.

Apart from NAIA, several other airports worldwide, including those in Australia, Brunei, and Hong Kong, implement alert levels for lightning strikes.

In 2022, a total of 439 combined Lightning Red and Yellow Alerts were issued, with an average duration of one hour and two minutes for a Lightning Red Alert status before it is downgraded to a Lightning Yellow Alert.

During In the same year, MIAA enlisted the services of Earth Networks, a pioneer in total lightning detection, to install a lightning early warning system. This automated safety system includes lightning warning systems with audible and visual alerts that activate when lightning approaches a pre-defined radius around the aerodrome. It also features a countdown clock displaying the alert status and time to an all-clear, facilitating the easy suspension and resumption of ramp activities.

Consequently, the real-time information provided by Earth Networks assists MIAA in mitigating the impact of lightning strikes on airport operations.

During Lightning Red Alerts, announcements are promptly disseminated to airport stakeholders via radio communications. Passengers are informed through the terminal paging systems, and lightning advisories are immediately posted on the official Ninoy Aquino International Airport Facebook page.

“While we have a duty to keep flights safe, we are also duty-bound to protect the lives of airport personnel while they are at work, especially those working in areas where exposure to environmental hazards is higher,” said Co.

Additionally, Co called upon the airline operators to ensure that announcements are made onboard the aircraft when they are held on the ground or en route to NAIA, keeping passengers informed about the situation.

The practice of suspending ramp movement for both aircraft and ground personnel during a Lightning Red Alert has been in effect since 2012.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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