An Arik Air Boeing is minus its flight management system after thieves broke into the plane while it was parked in Lagos and made off with the valuable piece of kit. The theft was followed by another security breach where customs officials allegedly threatened airport security officers with violence if they did not let them pass unhindered through a security gate.
Thieves boost a flight management computer from a Boeing in Lagos
According to Nigerian news outlets, the theft took place late last Wednesday evening or in the early hours of Thursday morning. The jet, a Boeing 737-700 (registration EI-ULN) leased from Enzis Airlines, had arrived into Murtala Muhammed International Airport from Harcourt late on Wednesday afternoon.
Airport insiders say the theft occurred between 23:00 on Wednesday, January 19, and 07:00 the next day. In addition to the flight management system, the thieves tampered with the pilot static cover and other sensitive parts of the aircraft.
“The aircraft was parked inside the tarmac at MM2 (the airport’s domestic terminal II), and someone got access to the electrical electronic base where we have all the systems,” Nigeria’s Daily Sun was told.
“There is a door underneath the aircraft where they opened and got access to remove the flight management computer.”
The media outlet says only someone with aircraft technical skills and knowledge of the airport operations could carry out such a specialist heist.
“It is impossible for a novice to have successfully removed the flight management computer – that thing was stolen by an expert,” the unnamed insider said.
— The Sun Nigeria (@thesunnigeria) January 25, 2022
Flight management system difficult to sell without a confirmed buyer
Lagos-based Arik Air has a fleet of 18 planes, including five Boeing 737-300s, that scoot around Nigeria and the West African region. The airline has two 737-700s on lease from Mongolia-based Enzis Airline.
Essential to any modern commercial passenger plane, the flight management system automates a wide variety of in-flight tasks, including flights plans, navigation, and position determination.
“The equipment that was stolen is small, but it cost a lot of money. To repair it costs about $15,000 and a brand new one costs about $300,000 as of 2021,” The Daily Sun’s source says.
“Every item in an aeroplane has serial numbers and can be tracked anywhere in the world, so I don’t know how the thief intends selling it unless the person has a vendor. That is why we believe it is internal sabotage.”
Questions asked about security at Murtala Muhammed International Airport
The theft rendered the Arik Air Boeing inoperable (it has remained in Lagos since the incident) and had knock-on effects across the Arik Air network.
Africa-focused news agency Sahara Reporters lists several significant security breaches at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in recent years. They claim around 100 security personnel at the airport are not properly screened by Nigeria’s Federal Airports Authority.
Coinciding with last week’s theft is a public stoush between Nigeria’s Federal Airport Authority and the country’s Customs Service over another security breach at the airport. The Airport Authority has accused the customs area comptroller of forcefully gaining access into the restricted security area of the airport. The incident happened later on the same day the flight management computer went walkabout.
“While accessing the gate, the armed escorts to the Comptroller threatened to beat up the AVSEC officers at the gate if they dare resist their assault and breach of security,” says an Airports Authority spokesperson.
Simple Flying is not saying the two incidents are related, merely that they both occurred within the same short window of time.