By Matthew Pwajok
The most impacted sector of the global economy as a result of the advent of the novel COVID-19 is undoubtedly the aviation industry. The escalation of this virus into a global pandemic led to the closure of airports worldwide, and consequentlythe closure of all Nigerian airports to both domestic and international flights on 30th March 2020. The closure of these airports has greatly affected airports authorities, airlines, air navigation service providers, ground handlers, civil aviation authorities, cargo handlers,concessionaires, and other businesses within the airport community. This situation has resulted in loss of revenue, loss of jobs, loss of business, etc.
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) in consideration of the severe impact of COVID-19 on airlines, developed a restart plan as required by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NAMA);and a business continuity plan as necessary for the continued provision of air navigation services; as well as a recovery plan to enhance airlines restart and recovery process.
The NAMA recovery plan is a strategic effort aimed at implementing new concepts that will enhance airline safety, cost effectiveness, efficiency and economic survival.
The recovery strategies include the following:
Air Navigation Plan
The implementation of the recovery strategies was based on the National Air Navigation Plan and the National Aviation System Block Upgrade Implementation Plan developed by the Agency and approved by the NCAA.
Performance Based Navigation Routes
NAMA on the 23rdApril 2020, in collaboration with ICAO and IATA, implemented in Nigeria 9 PBN Area Navigation Regional Routes (RNAV10 Routes) to reduce flight distance, reduce flight time, reduce fuel consumption, reduce CO2 emissions and reduce pilot workload. These new routes that connect regionally include UQ200, UQ300, UQ400, UQ324, UQ181, UY604, UY333, UY57, Uy87.
These new routes are in addition to other PBN Routes that were earlier implemented.
Flight Plannable Direct Routes
In conjunction with ICAO and IATA, NAMA published 5 new direct routes within Nigerian airspace aimed at reducing flight distance and flight timefor airlines within our airspace. These routes were specially designed and published on 21st May 2020 to enhance cost effective operations by airlines during COVID-19.
PBN RNAV Approaches NAMA has implemented Performance Based NavigationApproaches with lateral guidance (LNAV) at 24 airports and currently developing PBN Approaches with Vertical Guidance (BARO VNAV) for implementation at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt. In addition, NAMA has implemented Standard Arrival Routes (STARs) and Standard Instrument Departure Routes (SIDs) in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, and Port Harcourt to reduce flight time within terminal areas.
Instrument Landing System Category III
The Agency recently successfully installed new ILS Cat III at Lagos and Abuja in addition to 6 new ILS Cat II installed at Lagos (RWY18L), Kano, Port Harcourt, Jos, Enugu, Kaduna, Benin, Akure, Maiduguri; as well as new Doppler VOR/DMEs at Lagos, Kano, Jos, Maiduguri, Enugu, and Port Harcourt.The Agency also took delivery of a new Beechcraft 350i for flight calibration.
The Agency has also implemented e-flight planning and NOTAM services at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt to reduce physical contact during COVID-19 and reduce workload for airline operators. In addition, the Agency is expecting to complete the automation of her AIM system that will deliver a digital AIM system in line with ASBU concept of AIXM/AICM.
Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM)
In line with the Aviation System Block Upgrade, the Agency is deploying VSAT facilities in 24 airports under the Aeronautical Information Management Project to provide the required ground to ground connectivity for the establishment of ACDM.
Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM)
The Agency in line with the Mombasa Declaration for the establishment of ATFM in AFI Region, trained 16 officers on ATFM and is in the process of developing Protocols and SOPs for the implementation of ATFM in Nigeria. The implementation of ATFM has become even more urgent in Nigeria as a strategic measure for minimizing congestion at airport terminals in order to ensure physical distancing during COVID-19.
Free Routing Airspace (FRA)
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency in collaboration with IATA, ICAO and adjacent States, is developing procedures for the conduct of trials for the regional implementation of Free Routing Airspace (FRA). This new concept when operational, will avail airlines with the most cost efficient flight paths using forecasted weather conditions and actual tailwind advantage to fly the shortest direct routes.
Arrival Manager and Departure Manager (AMAN & DMAN)
NAMA in partnership with SITA of France is currently implementing Traffic Sequencing Systems (AMAN and DMAN) at Lagos and Abuja to enhance ATM capacity and reduce terminal traffic delays for cost-effective flight operations.
Surface Movement and Ground Radar Control System
NAMA is also working on the implementation of a level 2 Advanced Surface Movement and Ground Control Radar System at Lagos and Abuja to enhance safety and efficiency.
Continuous Climb Operations and Continuous Descent Operations (CCO & CDO)
The Agency in line with ICAO global priorities, has implemented CCOs and CDOs at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt. The implementation of CCOs and CDOs will greatly reduce fuel burnt through seamless descent and climb profiles for operators especially during this difficult period of COVID-19.
Surveillance (TRACON, ADS-C, MLAT, Space ADS-B)
Nigeria has a very robust surveillance system with the Total Radar Coverage backed up with the ADS-C. Furthermore, the Agency is currently implementing Multilateration in the Niger Delta Area for the control of Low Level Helicopter operations. In addition, the Agency is also in the process of partnering with Aireon with the aim of implementing Space Based ADS-B.
Regional Initiatives and Collaboration
The Agency is collaborating with other States for the implementation of Surveillance Data Sharing to facilitate a seamless Regional ATM system. The Agency is also in partnership with ASECNA States, GCAA, and Roberts FIR for the upgrade of the AFI Region Satellite Network (AFISNET) for enhanced regional interoperability and attainment of the concept of Single African Sky or the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
COVID-19 will most probably remain the most devastating event in the history of international aviation with very profound impact that may take several years to recover from. Therefore, it is imperative that incentives are urgently implemented by ANSPs, CAAs, Airport Operators, as well as Governments, to enhance safe, effective and efficient recovery of airlines and the entire industry. It is in this respect that NAMA is implementing the above initiatives to reduce airlines operating cost and ensure timely recovery and sustainability for the entire industry.