9 March 2023
It was disheartening to see passengers forced to walk on the exposed guideway of the aerotrain at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport recently, when the vehicle broke down midway between the main and satellite terminals. The rescue train that was supposed to pick them up also broke down.
What is really concerning is the fact that the passengers had to walk in the rain and were exposed to potential lightning strikes in one of the most lightning prone countries in the world.
They should not have left the train which is a very safe structure if a lightning strike occurs on or near the vehicle.
Since a similar incident had occurred a few years ago, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) should have installed a lightning protection system that can make the guideway safe for passengers and crew to walk on, in case of another breakdown during a thunderstorm.
Such a system had been installed at the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Airport in the United States about 20 years ago. The airport’s authority prioritised lightning safety of passengers and crew in their people-mover system, the Skylink, which is the biggest in the world.
They were concerned that passengers and maintenance crew could be exposed to lightning strikes during an evacuation if a major breakdown occurred during a thunderstorm.
A lightning protection system was installed on the whole 8km Skytrain guideway, which is high above the ground and on top of the terminal buildings.
Malaysian airport authorities should emulate the DFW airport authority on this critical matter since the rate of lightning strikes at KLIA is more than double that at DFW.
Incidentally, the DFW Skylink lightning protection system was designed by a Malaysian consultant.
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