The Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Engr Ibrahim Abdulsalam flagged off the site acceptance test for the Safe Tower Project, there he addressed many burning issues and although he said it is not Uhuru yet for the airspace he admits that a lot of work is ongoing to improve on what has been over the years. Our correspondent was there. Excerpts:
What stage is the new tower and when are you going to start using it?
The ATM systems have all been completely installed; then we have to complete the site acceptance test before it can be used. If the site is accepted, eventually it will be commissioned. So after the site acceptance test we look at all that have been done, look at those issues on ground which need to be sorted out. Those that are not needed will be taken out; those that are okay will be taken. When everything has been properly done and detailed, we can now star using them. We are likely to start using them before the end of the year, but these are technical things; its usage will depend on the site acceptance test.
Are you satisfied with what you saw today?
Definitely; you saw what has been done, so what is left is to see the result of the site. Seeing it physically is one thing but sitting down and following the details one after the other is another thing. That is the essence of the site acceptance test. Every component has to be looked at, the way it is done and if it is done properly and then tested to make sure it is working. In the next couple of days they are expected to have completed this test.
When you move to the new tower, what will happen to the old one with all the facilities therein?
The old one will not be done away with; it will be kept on standby. In case of emergency it can be used. It is not like it is going to be de-commissioned.
In which way can this enhance flight and safety?
It can enhance flight and safety in a lot of ways. For instance, operations from the old tower have been bedevilled by the fact that it is lower and a lot of things there are old. This is a completely new tower; everything in the runway is new and it is much higher and bother end of the runway can easily be seen. Most of the all the safety issues are there and all the equipment that were installed are new.
It seems that NAMA is advancing faster than the local airlines in terms of technology. Don’t you think your equipment may not be adequately utilised?
A lot of foreign airlines are using and ready to use the new equipment and some of the local airlines are also ready to use the modern equipment. It is a mixed bag. There are those that are readily technologically up to date and there are those that are still coming up.
Let’s look at Performance Based Navigation (PBN). Have you completed it?
The project had been completed since but the issue is that those that fly it are basically the foreign airlines. NCAA is yet to approve it for the local airlines. I understand that Arik is about to start using the equipment but I am not too sure about the other airlines, but Arik aircraft are equipped to use it.
It is said there are bees at the tower at Jos airport. Is there anything NAMA is doing to solve the problem?
The Jos tower issue has been on-going. It is like a seasonal thing. We have been addressing it and it has been on and off. We have already identified where we can block so that when the place is blocked the chances of the bees coming back will be slim. As I said earlier, it is a seasonal thing. There are times you can go there and work, but sometimes it is difficult because the bees have already gone into the building. Once the window opens for us to address the issue we tackle it immediately.
The flight from Lagos to Kano took us about one hour, 20 minutes thus saving about 20 minutes. What made this possible?
You know we have very efficient routing now that you can take direct routing from Lagos to wherever you are going or wherever you are coming from to Lagos. Those are some of the benefits of PBN; those are some of the benefits of direct routing. It is part of the things we are enjoying at the moment and we hope to even enjoy more subsequently as we move along.
What is the maintenance arrangement for the project?
This has been installed in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja. Our people are already conversant with the facilities so maintaining it will not be difficult for us. They trained on it and they have been maintaining the other three stations so maintaining this one will not be a problem.
In March 2008 Beechcraft 1900D owned by Wings Aviation left Lagos to Bebi airstrip at Obudu in Cross River state and disappeared. Do you think that can happen again or do we have the equipment to locate the whereabouts of any aircraft in the airspace to locate the point it was last seen?
No, no; it cannot happen again. The point is that the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) released the report of that accident. If you can hold a copy of it, it will be very, very enlightening. This is because a lot of things people said about the accident was not actually what happened. People say whatever they want but I don’t wish to join issues with anybody. If you get that report you will be able to see what the findings are then you will know what actually happened and what actually transpired.
But is the route to Bebi now better that it used to be?
Performance Based Navigation covers baby and world Geodetic Survey (WG84) also covered Bebi. Apart from that even the Cross River Government has done a lot of things to improve the facilities in the airstrip.
Why are you installing the Save Tower Project in Kano now?
Major milestone is being accomplished today with the conduct of the Site Acceptance Test of the new Kano Safe Tower project, as well as the Controller-Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC) training.
It will be recalled that the Safe Tower Project was conceived in 2006 by the Obasanjo regime with the aim of automating the provision of air traffic services at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt Control Towers. The project was successfully completed in Abuja and Lagos in 2007, while Port Harcourt was completed in 2008.
However, the completion of this project was delayed in Kano as a new Control Tower had to be constructed. The construction of the new Kano Control Tower was further delayed by the death of the contractor and eventual legal issues arising therefrom.
Following the completion of the construction of the new Kano Control Tower in November 2014, NAMA promptly mobilized AVSATEL to site for the deployment of the Safe Tower automated ATM and Meteorological systems in January 2015.
Shortly after AVSATEL mobilized to site, the Kano Safe Tower project suffered yet another delay as some of the equipment which have been in the warehouse since 2007, had gone obsolete and had to be replaced at additional cost.
Despite all the challenges, we are very glad that the deployment of the system is completed and the required conduct of a Site Acceptance Test is commencing today.
Ladies and gentlemen, a successful outcome of this Site Acceptance Test will lead to the commencement of air traffic control operations from the new Kano Control Tower.
What are the gains of the project?
The main deliverables of the Kano Safe Tower project include the following paperless or electronic strip system, automated ATM system with four working positions for Aerodrome Control, Ground Control, Approach Control and Flight Data Operator position, VHF radio systems (mains and standby) for all working positions and Voice Communications and Control System (VCCS),
The main benefits of the completed Kano Safe Tower project are as follows: use of electronic or paperless flight progress strips, effective and efficient flight planning, reduction in ATC workload, additional ATC work positions for Ground and Approach Control, availability of a Radar Monitoring system for enhanced Air Traffic Situation awareness, automated data storage for effective billing, availability of meteorological information online and real time and vertical wind shear alerting system, etc.
We are also conducting Automatic Dependent Surveillance and Controller Pilot Data Link Communication Training, which is another milestone being recorded today. The Automatic Dependent Surveillance and Controller Pilot Data Link Communication system (ADS-C/CPDLC) training commencing today for Kano Area Control Centre (ACC).
It will be recalled that in our strategic efforts towards addressing the challenges of long range air – ground communications, the agency signed a contract with SITA on 7th January 2015 for the deployment of satellite based surveillance and communication systems (ADS-C/CPDLC) in Lagos and Kano.
The major deliverables of the ADS-C/CPDLC project are as follows: the project will deliver Automatic Dependent Surveillance Systems at Lagos and Kano with capacity for long range surveillance that would back up the TRACON Radar system.
The project will also deliver Data Link Communication systems at Lagos and Kano for long range air – ground data communication covering the entire Nigerian airspace and beyond,
The project will also deliver a data recording and storage system for all air – ground communications, The project will deliver technical supervisor positions at both Lagos and Kano,
The system will also deliver servers for both Lagos and Kano with adequate backup, site trainings for ATSEPs at Lagos and Kano after installation and Site Acceptance Test, Site trainings for ATCs at Lagos and Kano after installation and Site Acceptance Test, AFAME Simulation Tool at Lagos and Kano for simulation of aircraft tracks or Downlink messages for system testing or simulation, playback system at Lagos and Kano for replay of recorded ADS-C and CPDLC data, etc.
It is interesting to note that the following milestones have also been accomplished: factory Acceptance Test conducted at SITA Training Facility in Paris, France, in June 2015, two weeks ATC Operational Trainings for six Lagos ATC Trainers at SITA Training Facility in Paris, France, in June 2015
There was also two weeks ATC Operational Trainings for six Kano ATC Trainers at SITA Training Facility in Paris, France, in June 2015, two weeks Technical Trainings for six (6) Lagos ATSEP Trainers at SITA Training Facility in Paris, France, in June 2015, two weeks Technical Trainings for six (6) Kano ATSEP Trainers at SITA Training Facility in Paris, France, in June 2015, pre-Shipment Inspection conducted in June 2015 prior to shipment of the systems to Lagos and Kano, in-house ATC Operational training of Kano and Lagos ATCOs to augment the 12 officers trained in Paris, etc.
The benefits of the ADS-C/CPDLC Project include the following: provide extended range communication that would ensure effective ATM delivery within the Nigerian airspace, reduced ATC and Pilot workload, enhanced safety through accuracy and efficiency communication between ATC and flight crew, enhances ATM and Airspace capacity, reduces flight delays, flight times, fuel burnt and C02 emissions, provide cost effective surveillance and data communication, eliminate air – ground communication blind spots within our airspace, provides effective coverage over the oceanic airspace, etc.
The current deployment of ADS-C and CPDLC is expected to significantly enhance flight operations especially over the North Eastern part of the country where the insecurity situation has severely affected the provision of surveillance and communication services. Likewise the deployment of ADS-C and CPDLC would also ensure adequate surveillance and communication coverage over the oceanic airspace.
Finally, the deployment of these facilities will greatly enhance safety, efficiency and economy of flight operations within our airspace.
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