The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has been busy in the last couple of months as the agency is preparing to go into satellite based navigation, veering from the terrestrial based norm as well as improve communication in the airspace and build capacity to handle the new equipment coming into the country.
All this is in a bid to strengthen the agency to enable it provide safer skies for the flying public and the momentum this year has increased as a lot is being done to ensure that the goal of nationwide air safety is not a mere pipedream but a reality.
NAMA, which is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring safety of the airspace, has the responsibility to make sure that aircraft overflying or using the Nigerian airspace are monitored, separated properly and guided accurately to their destination in good time and for these functions a lot of work has to go in.
So how is this present NAMA management under the leadership of Ibrahim Abdulsalam prepared to improve the lot of this institution from what is on ground and what steps have been taken to actually ensure that things are actually moving and that it is not business as usual.
Since 2012 when the idea was first brought to the fore, a lot has been said about migrating from terrestrial based navigation to satellite based navigation and thus the Performance Based Navigation (PBN), an initiative of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was conceptualized.
The PBN when fully in use has a lot of advantages some of which include reduction of air traffic congestion, helping airlines to conserve fuel thereby cutting cost of operation, then there is the protection of the environment because of reduction carbon emissions, aircraft noise pollution and a whole great deal.
NAMA however has positioned itself to enable airlines in Nigeria tap into these advantages by ensuring that it meets the PBN requirements in good time.
Already, according to the latest information about the PBN, NAMA has implemented PBN in 15 airports and is only waiting for aircraft with necessary approval from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to start using the services in those airports.
From left; DG, NCAA, Capt. Usman Muhtar, NAMA MD, Engr. Ibrahim Abdulsalam,
Sales Director, SITA, Sam Munda and FAAN MD, Engr. Saleh Dunoma
during the official test run of ADS-C/CPDLC at TRACON Site, MMIA, Lagos.
According to Abdulsalam, The airports include Benin, Calabar, Enugu, Ibadan, Ilorin, Owerri, Jos and Kaduna. Others are Maiduguri, Katsina, Minna, Sokoto, Zaria, Gombe and Bauchi.
He noted that the implementation of Performance Based Navigation in Nigeria became inevitable as it is in line with global migration from ground-based navigation to satellite-based navigation, stressing that NAMA is leaving no stone unturned in meeting the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirement for states to ensure full implementation of Performance Based Navigation at both local and international airports by 2016.
Engr. Abdulsalam also said that “because of the increased level of accuracy, reliability, continuity, integrity of information, overall enhanced safety and attendant benefits to airlines and the travelling public, it has become imperative for Nigerian operators to key in to PBN” adding that “with direct routing and reduced flight times, Performance Based Navigation would enhance efficiency and reduce cost to the airlines.”
The NAMA boss also said that arrangements are being made to integrate the other airports: Uyo, Asaba, Yola, Kebbi, Dutse, Akure Bebi and Osubi airports into the PBN network in the country.
One challenge that has in the past been an issue of recurring debate is the challenge of communication in the airspace with unions screaming to the high heavens about pilots being unable to communicate in certain ‘blackspots’ of the airspace.
NAMA in order to address long range air to ground communications has commenced procurement and installation of an Automatic Dependent Survelliance- Contract/Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (ADS-C/CPDLC) for the Lagos and Kano Area Control Centres (ACCs)
This new technology can be likened to digital text messaging and can be used to solve the challenge of more flights using a particular voice communication frequency and saturating it in other words it creates additional communication medium between the pilot (flight) and the controller.
Explaining the deliverables of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance and Controller Pilot Data Link Communication, Abdulsalam said 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.
According to him, 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,and 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,
He further said that the ADS-C/CPDLC Project will provide extended range communication that would ensure effective Air Traffic Management (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,” Abdulsalam said.
Apart from the PBN and the ADS-C/CPDLC projects that are already ongoing and near enactment, there is also the just concluded Kano Safe Tower project which was completed and has been recently inspected by this present administration after delay since 2006.
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.
Abdulsalam in an interview while inspecting the Kano Safe Tower project explained some of the challenges and how it was overcome:
NAMA MD Engineer Ibrahim Abdulsalam, (left) with officials of Avsatel Communications, inspects equipment during the Site Acceptance Test of the Kano Safe Tower project at MAKIA, Kano recently
”Following the completion of the construction of the new Kano Control Tower in November 2014, NAMA promptly mobilised AVSATEL to site for the deployment of the Safe Tower automated ATM and Meteorological systems in January 2015.”
“Shortly after AVSATEL mobilised 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 has commenced.”
“Already commencement of air traffic control operations from the new Kano Control Tower has started.”
NAMA has also completed safety assessment and design of six International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) approved PBN regional routes that will enhance regional connectivity within the AFI region.
These routes include a new airway linking Nairobi in Kenya direct to Abuja in Nigeria (UT475); another linking Bangui in Central African Republic (CAR) direct to Tamale in Ghana (UT458) and a Europe direct route from Abuja in Nigeria to Tamaransset in Algeria (UT416).
Others are an international route from Garoa in Cameroun to Niamey in NigerRepublic through Kano in Nigeria (UT459); Lagos Nigeria direct to Guiney Conakry (467) and Oxilo in Cameroun direct to Lagos in Nigeria (UT457).
Managing Director, Engr. Ibrahim Abdulsalam, who disclosed these new routes also said that they shall become operational on the AIRAC date of 15th October 2015 have been published worldwide through the Nigerian AIP Supplement issued by NAMA.
Equipment and facilities are all well and good but can only function as well as the personnel handling such equipment, in other words the workability of a system is only as good as the personnel trained to use it and so the airspace managers have not overlooked training and retraining of its staff.
This year alone, NAMA has sent a lot of their staff to the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and other aviation training institutions to update them and prepare them to take control of these systems once online.
In batches and for different trainings, NAMA has sent Air Traffic Controllers for their trainings to be able to handle this system as they are the bedrock in which lies the success or failure of the entire system.
Early this year, NAMA began the process of implementing the PBN regional route with the training of 40 PBN professionals while another 40 will be trained soon for the total coverage of the country.
The 40 Air Traffic Controllers of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), have scaled the rating tests of the Nigerian by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA).
The Air Traffic Controllers who cut across different cadres got their ratings after successfully passing the oral, written and practical examinations conducted in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, and Port Harcourt as well as Benin airports and supervised by the regulatory authority.
A total of 43 Air Traffic Controllers took part in the rigorous rating examinations held between November and December, 2014 on Aerodrome, Approach, Approach Radar, Area/Airways and Area Control Surveillance. Out of this number, forty were successful while three were not.
It will be recalled that in its determination to build critical manpower capacity in the area of operations, over 124 Air Traffic Controllers were rated in 2014, just as a batch of 40 ATCs were recently trained on Performance Based Navigation (PBN) Flight Procedures in Cairo, Egypt while another batch of 5 were trained on Wind Shear Equipment handling in Germany.
With this it would seem that the airspace managers have things well in hand both facility wise and personnel wise and as these lofty projects take the centre stage quite soon it will be a joy to see that it will transform the country’s airspace to one of the safest if not the safest in the world.
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