By Olamide Oni
As Africa anticipates a massive inflow of air traffic by 2036 as predicted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), governments, regulators, agencies and other stakeholders in the region have embarked on strategic plans to improve capacity. Amidst this, safety in the airspace remains top priority.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, who spoke during a Stakeholders Interactive Forum in Lagos, organized by the Nigerian Aerospace Management Agency (NAMA) calls for effective collaboration among stakeholders in the Nigerian aviation industry to ensure a safer airspace. He describes this collaboration as ‘the way to go’ if Nigeria must respond positively to the opportunities that would arise from the expected global air transportation boom.
The Minister who spoke through Alhaji Sabiu Zakari, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport, says: “The policy direction of the President Muhamadu Buhari’s administration is to provide enabling environment for investments in sectors that stimulate economic diversification and aviation is key as an intermodal means of transportation. A safe airspace for seamless connectivity and free flow of domestic, regional and international air traffic is essential for capital investment into any economy.”
The Managing Director NAMA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, notes that “the concept of this interactive session is to hear all the complaints from you and we have taken notes. We will like to do what you want and not what we want.”
In outlining its recent achievements the agency says it has installed Very High Frequency (VHF) radios across 17 airports and navigational aids across 12 airports in the country. The agency also adds that it will commence automation of the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) and achieve remarkable improvements in its operations amongst many more by the first quarter of 2019. Capt. Akinkuotu adds that the agency will deploy CAT III Systems in the Lagos and Abuja airports before the fourth quarter of 2018 to enhance visibility during harmattan in Nigeria and to also avoid cancellations of flights.
While the floor for interaction was declared open by Engr. Akin Olateru, Commissioner for the Accident Investigative Bureau, Mr. Roland Iyayi, former Managing Director of NAMA, who is now President & CEO, TopBrass Aviation, notes that NAMA has been doing well as services providers in the industry. However, he called on the agency to carry stakeholders like airlines and other agencies along in its procurement processes following the controversies that have come up on the recently installed Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON).
Meanwhile Capt. Chris Najomo, a Pilot at Arik Air who commended NAMA’s recent activity noted that safety is improving in the Nigerian airspace, saying there is need for a more efficient system to expedite processing of aircraft departures. He urges NAMA to improve training tapping into the experiences of Heathrow and New York Airports, etc.
Capt. Najomo also urges Chief Pilots and airlines to enlighten their pilots on how to be disciplined while communicating on the radio and he also appealed to the controllers to be prompt in answering the call of pilots in order to maintain decorum.
Also, Capt. Folu Oladipo, Chief Pilot at Green Africa Airways, who also commended NAMA advises the agency as well as other aviation agencies to have a long-term plan in order to help make business conducive and easy for operators especially when equipment are being upgraded.
Meanwhile, Group Capt Ojikutu, (Rtd.) Aviation Security Consultant and General Secretary of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), states the need for adequate manpower in NAMA. He says: “In 2007 we had about 18 airports, supported by about 300 controllers, and today we have about 26 airports. When NCAA was giving a report about 2 months ago, that figure hasn’t changed. We still have about 313 controllers. If you share that we will have an average of 20 controllers for each airport, so there is a shortage of controllers in NAMA and we have to seriously look into it. So, when we talk about equipments we should also be talking about manpower.”
The Honourable Minister of State for Aviation assures the discussions from the meeting would be looked into and actions would be taken to move the industry forward.