In a short while, it would be time for Nigeria to defend her category one status in the global world of aviation safety. Four years ago,(in 2010) the country was first awarded the much coveted category one status by the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO after an audit of the worthiness of her airspace. Interestingly, this next audit would come at a time when a Nigerian—Dr Bernard Aliu—is the new president of the governing board of ICAO.
But rather than conferring any privileges or special status on the country, it could mean that Nigeria may actually be under the very glare of the global aviation safety watchdog. Nonetheless in the past three years, the Nigerian Aviation industry has witnessed a dramatic transformation that has put the aviation agencies at ease in terms the country’s readiness to retain her category one status. Indeed, within the space of three years after this certification, the various parastatals under the Ministry of Aviation have attained significant milestones.
These include the Federal Airports Authority, FAAN, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority,NCAA;Nigerian Airspace Management Authority, NAMA;The Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau,AIPB; Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT.
In an unprecedented and radical move, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria ,FAAN embarked on a re-modelling programme to upgrade and repair 22 dilapidated airport terminals scattered around the country and so far, over 12 of these airport terminals have been completely re-modelled, while work is in top gear at the remaining terminals. The construction of four brand new state-of-the-art,international airport terminals in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and Port Harcourt has already commenced after President Goodluck Jonathan led administration signed a bilateral agreement worth $4 billion for their constructions with the Chinese government last July.
Apart from these which would vastly raise the level of passenger’ s comfort and cargo handling capacity at the airports, within this period of time, FAAN has made itself fully compliant with ICAO standards for firefighting and rescue operations. Before July 2011, there were only 20 fire tenders available, but now, FAAN has at least 46 fire tenders. In addition, 450 brand new kits, (equipment as well as personal protective clothing) have been provided for firemen and women. This has been done to enable firemen efficiently carry out their duties in securing and safeguarding the airport terminals and the lives of passengers and workers.
To beef up its counter-terrorism capacity, FAAN procured and deployed hi-tech, 3-in-1 (liquids, metals and explosive detection) screening equipment at all FAAN controlled airports round the country. These equipment have been fully installed and are functional at the Murtala Muhammed international Airport Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja while those for other airports are at different stages of completion. A key component of the Infrastructure improvement programme for the various airports is the procurement and installation of more passenger handling equipment and support systems which include luggage screening and handling conveyor systems, air conditioning, standby power systems, baggage belt systems, lifts, escalators and travelators.
The new Air Traffic Management system under the TRACON project undertaken by the Nigerian Aerospace Management Authority, NAMA has made significant progress in putting in place radar and other navigational guidance systems that addressed the gaps in the country’s air navigational coverage.
As a matter-of -fact, the TRACON project has been completed with approach radar control in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port-Harcourt ,while Area Radar coverage has started in Lagos and Kano ACCs. Whereas, solar power for control tower navigational aids that helps ensure round-the –clock coverage which was unavailable for a long time has been successfully deployed. The country now has 6 functional, sophisticated navigational aids and 11 well equipped control towers to its credit. All this means that embarrassing snide remarks about Nigeria as one huge ‘black hole’ in terms of air traffic control, is now a thing of the past.
Last year,with TRACON in place, Nigerian Aviation sector was able to record a major milestone in search and rescue operations. In these situations, realtime radar playback provided by TRACON proved invaluable. The redesigning of the airspace to be WGS-84 compliant is one of the steps taken by the country to meet ICAO’s standard and transit to performance Based Navigation (PBN) Since the 2010 CAT 1 certification, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has made substantial investment in equipment to improve its aviation oversight functions. It has deployed a sophisticated flight tracking system, and an Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS) which was previously unavailable in the country.
Another pertinent milestone is the IOSA certification and interlining which had never been done in Nigeria. Two local airlines have been successfully certified under this programme and the exercise is currently on going.
Working along with TRACON and its own recently installed state-of-the art equipment, the country’s Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau, AIPB is now able to quickly download, extract, decode and analyse the aircraft accident data from the CVR and FDR (Black Boxes) thus saving time and money. This capacity has sped up the investigation process and upgraded our aircraft accident investigation process. Even the once neglected aviation training school at Zaria, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT was not left out of the transformation agenda of this administration. It has been upgraded and well-equipped in order to fulfil its mandate of producing world class skilled manpower for the country’s aviation industry.
Aside from the structural and management changes at the school,government has also purchased training equipment which include the EADS SOCATA TBM 850 single engine turbo prop trainer aircraft, two No Bell 2061-iv helicopters and Gas Turbine Trainers which were unavailable before 2013 for the institution — for the first time ever. An ARTMACS Pc-Based Radar Simulator and an Auto pilot Training station have also been procured and installed in the institution.
All these milestones which point the way forward for Nigerian Aviation can be attributed to the bold, imaginative and well articulated Aviation master plan which was initiated and boldly implemented in the last three years under the leadership of the former Aviation minister, Princess Stella Oduah.This has seen Nigerian Aviation leap forward in rapid bursts over the past three years.
And based on the foregoing, the Aviation Ministry and its parastatals can confidently look forward to the forthcoming recertification audit for Category 1 status by ICAO. There is no doubt that we have made significant progress in the past three years which should more than earn us the coveted re-certification. And of course, the reform is far from being over.