6 March 2023
IT was indeed disheartening last week to see passengers being made to walk on the elevated and unprotected guideway of the aerotrain track at the KL International Airport (KLIA) when their train broke down midway between the main and satellite terminals; reportedly, the rescue train that was supposed to pick them up also broke down (“MAHB apologises to passengers left stranded after aerotrain breaks down between terminals”, The Star, March 2; online at bit.ly/star_aero).
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 cabin.
Since a similar incident had occurred a few years ago, MAHB (Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd) should have installed a lightning protection system that can make the guideway safe for passengers and crew to walk on in case of breakdown during a thunderstorm.
Such a system was installed at the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Airport in the United States about two decades ago when the airport authority there placed a high priority on lightning safety for passengers and crew of their then new airport people mover system, the Skylink, which is the biggest in the world.
They were very concerned that passengers and maintenance crew would be exposed to lightning strikes during evacuation if a major breakdown occurred during a thunderstorm. Consequently, they installed a lightning protection system on the whole 8km Skylink guideway, which was constructed high above the ground and on top of the terminal buildings.
MAHB should emulate the DFW Airport authorities in this critical matter since the rate of lightning strikes at KLIA is more than double that at DFW Airport.
Incidentally, the DFW Airport Skylink lightning protection system was designed by a Malaysian lightning protection consultant, i.e. this letter writer (“Malaysian strikes it big in field of lightning”, The Star, Nov 23, 2003; online at bit.ly/star_localdesign).
The letter writer is a lightning protection researcher and consultant.
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