By Ariel Fernandez
Safety is the primary reason why the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) suspends operation during a thunderstorm at the vicinity of the terminals.
“We assure the air riding public that the four Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminals are safe with its Lightning Protection System (LPS),” said MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals have twenty (20) lightning arresters which were upgraded in 2016 to ensure better protection coverage.
These devices are checked every three (3) years in adherence to internationally prescribed standards on lightning protection for vital facilities.
A lightning arrester is a device used to protect electrical and telecommunication facilities of buildings from the damaging effects of lightning. A lightning surge is captured through the arrester in the ground which absorbs it.
Lightning alerts are adopted in most airports worldwide as a safety measure to protect ramp workers from death or injury caused by a lightning strike.
NAIA lightning arresters have a spherical (or dome) coverage of 100 meters.
Workers have to be protected during thunderstorms so operations on the ground have to stop to avoid accident.
While airplanes have their own lightning protection, continued movement of ground personnel are discouraged because of the possibility of current to travel on the pavement before it finally discharges on the ground especially if the aircraft has not finally reached the radius of protection.
Personal protection equipment or gears worn by ramp workers may not be enough to protect them from at least 24 megavolts of current carried by a lightning.
Lightning happens during thunderstorms due to friction in air causing negatively charged particles in the atmosphere to be attracted by the positively or zero charged ground or pavement.
Apart from NAIA, lightning alert levels are also imposed in different countries like Hong Kong, Australia, Brunei, among others.
Monreal appeals for understanding of NAIA passengers when ramp operations are stopped during lightning red alerts.
Alerts are announced over NAIA’s public address systems to keep the passengers informed about the prevailing situation.
The airport chief also seeks the cooperation of airline operators to make sure that announcements are made on board the aircraft when held on the ground or are en route to NAIA.
“While we are duty bound to keep flights safe, we are also duty bound to protect the lives of airport personnel while at work especially those working in areas where exposure to environmental hazards is greater,” Monreal said.