In recent times, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is beginning to address some key issues, particularly in the areas of communication and human management. WOLE SHADARE writes
In 2013, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) listed Nigeria as one of the 14 countries in Africa that had achieved effective air safety implementation above the global average of 61 per cent. That was heart-warming for an airspace that was problematic and made many airlines want to boycott the nation’s airspace.
The Federal Government started the improvement of the airspace with the installation of the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) at the NAMA, which was conceived to achieve total radar coverage of the Nigerian airspace with the scope of the project covering the provision of co-located Primary and Secondary Radar, Eurocat-C Air Traffic
Management systems, Voice Communication Switches and Voice Recording Systems at the four main sites in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt airports; five autonomous Secondary Radar sites in Talata-Mafara, Maiduguri, Numan, Obubra and Ilorin.
The nine sites are interconnected via a multi-node VSAT network. The new system provide a means to guide an aircraft according to the information in its Flight Plan for both terminal and en-route flights, provide automatic correlation of local and system radar tracks with the flight plan and ensure overall safety of aircraft within the Terminal Approach Area (TMA) and the Flight Information Region (FIR).
NAMA has also established the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS), the total VHF Radio coverage of Nigeria, which provides effective Air-Ground communication between the pilot and the Air Traffic Control centres.
Also, the Extended Range VHF Radio Communication rides on the VSAT network to provide seamless services for operations in the Nigerian airspace.
The agency successfully completed the World Geodetic Survey (WGS-84) project for the Nigerian airspace by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The major deliverables of the project includes World Geodetic Survey (WGS) reports for the four major international airports in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt, and 18 other airports, airspace concept and GNSS procedures including SIDs (Standard Instrument Departures) and STARs (Standard Terminal Arrival Routes). This successful feat charts the roadmap to implementing Performance-Based Navigation (PBN).
Ever before the Abuja airport was finally closed, NAMA had got a marching order to ensure that Kaduna Airport got calibrated in three weeks and the staff of NAMA did the calibration under the eagle eyes of Capt. Akinkuotu, which was quite commendable.
Although the herculean task threw a very big challenge to NAMA but with the kind of leadership and experience of the management team, they were able to weather the storm within the right time frame.
In a show of professionalism, NAMA was able to round off the routine calibration of the Very High Omnidirectional Radio Range/Distance Measuring Equipment (VOR/DME) and the flight commissioning of the Instrument Landing System/Distance Measuring Equipment (ILS/DME).
Speaking to New Telegraph recently, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the Federal Government completed the Kano Tower Automated Air Traffic Management and Meteorological Systems, installed the Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) Category II (CAT II), Doppler VORs (DVORs), Distance Measuring Equipment (DMEs) at four airports; Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Kaduna completed, while that of Minna, Jos, Yola, Maiduguri, Benin and Akure are still on-going and nearing completion.
His words, “You will also recall that almost two years ago, NAMA Installed CAT III Instrument Landing System in Lagos and Abuja, which has helped in great deal to improve operations during inclement weather conditions. Also, we have installed the Very High Frequency (VHF) radios for aerodrome and approach air-ground communication in 18 airports nationwide. The airports are Maiduguri, Enugu, Jos, Calabar, Yola, Ilorin, Sokoto, Lagos, Kano, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Zaria and Katsina. Others are Owerri, Yola, Calabar and Kaduna.
“Besides, we have installed the high power Very High Frequency (VHF) stand-alone radios in Lagos and Kano Area Control Centres (ACC) as backup for air – ground upper airways voice communication and we also embarked on the deployment of Controller-Pilot-Data Link Communication (CPDLC) in Lagos and Kano to enhance communication in the oceanic region and the remote areas of the north”.
He stated that commencement of Aeronautical Information Management Automation Project, which comprises a network of 26 VSAT facilities at all Nigerian airports as well as Search and Rescue (S&R), with coordination, is domiciled in Lagos.
According to him, this will enable Nigeria to comply with the mandatory transition from Aeronautical Information.
“We also developed and published Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) Procedures for 18 airports across the country and also introduced Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs) and Standard Arrival Routes (STARs) at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt as an improvement on the procedures”.
NAMA was able to record huge success in airspace management and began immediate implementation, making it possible to drive the process personally.
In a bid to also put to an end to flight disruptions occasioned by harmattan or inclement weather, the Federal Government installed multi-million dollar Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) at Lagos and Kano airports.
The tools, it was learnt are Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) and VHF omnidirectional range (VOR). The DME is a navigation beacon, usually coupled to enable aircraft to measure their position relative to that beacon. Aircraft send out signal, which is sent back after a fixed delay by the DME.
The MD of NAMA, Akinkuotu, said that the agency recognises that apart from the adverse weather associated with this time of the year, there is also a huge demand for air traffic services and has taken steps to strengthen its technical and operational capacity.
Although, Akinkuotu was silent on the cost of the instrument, aggregating the numbers from several quarters, getting a Category II/III system up and running these days would cost at least $3 million per runway, plus at least $10,000 or so per year just to keep it certified.
Earlier this year, the Federal Government through NAMA made order and contracts for 11 airfields ILS.
Akinkuotu admitted that visibility at many of the aerodromes is bad, but gave assurance that with operable ILS to go to the aerodromes, “come December this year, there should be no excuse of them not landing in harmattan.”
He said that all the country’s navigational facilities are working at optimal levels, with precision approach landing aids at the five international airports where traffic is high also in top form.
There have been efforts made over the years to install airfield lighting at some airports in the country but such efforts end woefully as they were usually followed by scandals of huge sums of money diverted by the government officials.
All these are safety critical projects that ensure the safety of the airspace, including the recently completed Area Radar, which eases communication, routing in the airspace and cuts off flight time by almost 15 per cent; thus one hour flight could be shortened to 50 minutes, which saves fuel for the airlines and other operators.
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