Dark runway forced flight to abort Liberia landing

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Jonathan Paye-Layleh BBC News, Monrovia

A Brussels Airlines flight destined for Liberia’s Roberts International Airport was forced to abort its landing on Wednesday evening because the runway could not be lit up.

The lighting problem meant the flight was diverted to neighbouring Sierra Leone before returning to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, a few hours later.

There were reports the plane was running short on fuel when the flight was diverted.

An MP has described how the Brussels Airlines plane circled over her farm, which is within the vicinity of the airport, when it could not land.

Liberia’s Transport Minister Samuel Wlue confirmed to the BBC that there had been lighting “glitches” at the airport when the plane was about to land but they had not taken long to fix.

He sent the BBC footage of the aeroplane finally landing in Liberia at almost midnight.

Mr Wlue said he was heading to the airport on Thursday morning to ascertain more facts.

Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie told the BBC that an Air France flight had also managed to land at the airport after the problem was fixed.

Last month, the airport authorities shut down all after-midnight flights for up to 12 months to enable a team to fix frequent lighting problems that have caused diversions in the past.

Air France, one of only two European airliners still flying to Liberia, informed the government it would stop flying to Liberia at the end of April for reasons that included the viability of the route.

The airport situated some 45km (28 miles) south of Monrovia, was built by the Americans in the 1940s to enhance refuelling and movements of allied forces during the World War Two.