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Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Capt. Fola Akinkuotu

Capt. Akinkuotu: The Silent Transformer

IT is no longer news that since January, 2017 that Captain Fola Akinkuotu took over the mantle of leadership at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) as the Managing Director, there has been continuous upgrade of the agency’s air traffic management services and procedures to guarantee safety of air navigation across the country.

With that, there has been a lot of transformations in the agency that is in charge of airspace management in the past two years. What is so captivating about the turn-around process is that Capt. Akinkuotu does all these transformations in a very silent and gradual manner without making noise about it.

Addressing journalists recently, while asked on remarkable things he has done since he assumed office, Akinkuotu said “You know we are doing a lot of things in NAMA but my own approach is to get these things done first and then they could speak for themselves”

When Captain Fola Akinkuotu assumed office as Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), aviation watchers bet his antecedents would put him in good stead and that is exactly what is playing out presently.

Those who know Akinkuotu’s mettle, have held on to a belief that the captain, who was an operator, regulator and now a service provider, would always deliver. Two years down the line, the NAMA CEO has not disappointed them as he has made positive impacts in the following areas.

Equipment Upgrade:

Under Akinkuotu, there have been improvements of Navigational Aids across the country. For instance, the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) in Kano recently received a new CAT Doppler Very High Omnidirectional Radio Range (DVOR)/DME, as well as an ILS and DME. And the Lagos, Benin and Port Harcourt airports were not left out, each one receiving new CAT II ILS/DME too. Standards have been addressed ever since by the renowned aviator; this he did by ensuring that calibration of Navigation Aids across the country was according to the time sensitive recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and international best practices. A year after he became NAMA chief executive, communication facilities were given a boost by the deployment of four stand- alone long range communication radios at Lagos East and Lagos West, and also, Kano East and Kano West Area Control Centres (AAC.) This was to resolve issues surrounding Remote Control Air to Ground (RCAG) communication in Nigeria’s upper airspace. The installation at once solved the problem of communication in case of Satellite failure, maintenance of Satellite, and any lowering of Satellite integrity. Other assets acquired and set up include six IP (Internet Protocol) PABX in six stations, viz, Kaduna, Akure, Benin, Calabar, Ilorin and Enugu, all made part of a network for communication with the headquarters in Lagos, as well as VHF (Last Resort Base Station) transceivers in airports across Nigeria to augment air-to-ground and ground-to-ground communications. Man-portable radios for emergency communications were also deployed at all airports in the country, and in addition, hand-held VH-AM transceivers for monitoring.

Surveillance Equipment

In Kano, new controller work position displays and new modules were set up, while faulty modules in Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) equipment were repaired. Global Position System (GPS) receivers for MSSR system and UTC were replaced with new ones, while Radar System Electronics maintenance tool kits were acquired. To function effectively, efforts have also been made to beef up the Information Communication Technology (ICT) departments. A Storage Area Network (SAN) was deployed. A high-speed storage facility, it provides automatic back-up for all agency computers’ data for easy recovery of files and documents in the event of loss, while providing enough storage for email server services. A Local Area Network (LAN) for outstations was also deployed across 22 airports in the country, providing said airports with network resources and management capability. The development also enabled integration with Wide Area Network (WAN). A back-up solution was also achieved, to secure application data, the database and Hyper V virtual machines on tape media, with the added ability of intelligent recovery in case of breakdown.

In addition, NAMA has been able to start digitalization of the nation’s aeronautical information service (AIS) with the kick-off of installation of prefabricated pilot joint briefing offices nationwide. Starting from Lagos, it is expected that NAMA engineers will proceed to another airport and is expected to continue the installation in 21 airports and 3 aerodromes nationwide.

Airspace Planning

It is on record that it was under Akinkuotu that NAMA introduced new technology in the Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures at Enugu airport, for its runways 08 and 26. At the same airport, a Very High Omni Directional Radio Range/Distance Measuring Equipment (VOR/DME) was set up for runway 08. PBN procedures were also extended to Bayelsa airport’s Runways 24 and 06. The same airport received Control Zone and Standard Instrument Departure Route (SID) and its associated Standard Instrument Arrival Route (STAR). The PBN procedures asset was also extended to Asaba airport’s Runways 11 and 29, alongside a Control Zone. As well as PBN procedures for its Runways 17 and 35, Bauchi airport also got VOR/DME procedures for same. Then there were ILS procedures for its Runway 35.

Human Capital Development:

For better training of its staff, NAMA has canvassed for partnership and support from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in the training of critical manpower of Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) in the AFI Region.

Capt. Akinkuotu has also improved upon the training regimen of staff of the agency. Air Traffic Controllers from Lagos and Kano were schooled on Controller-Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC) at the United ATS Academy, Cairo, Egypt in 2018. Senior staff of the Airspace Planning Department also received training, on the latest software concerning PBN Approaches Baro V Nav, to accord with the regional air navigation plan. Also trained were seven Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) officers, on Quality Management System, all in Cairo, Egypt. Then, 12 Air Traffic Control officers from across the nation were sent to Kenya for training on Search and Rescue Coordination. An innovative programme for exchange of Air traffic Controllers was revived. It targets officers in contiguous Flight Information Regions, and took place in Accra and Niamey.

Most recently, NAMA charged the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to consider as a matter of urgency, the inclusion of Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel (ATSEP) licensing in its Annex1 to the Chicago Convention. This the agency says would place the responsibility to ensure safety on the holder because a license is the confirmation of competence in a specific safety related area.

Industrial Harmony:

For the past two years, there has also been noticeable industrial harmony in NAMA brokered by Akinkuotu through peaceful and meaningful engagement with management.

Before Akinkuotu’s era, the agency which has with highest number of aviation professionals and associations had been going through different crises ranging from staff welfare, seniority in professional associations, and creation of directorates to highest paid workers.

With the appointment of Captain Fola Akinkuotu to head the agency, his administration has been able to institute itself as a uniting factor for all the professional bodies and workers in the organisation. Within the period, the aviator has remained focused to achieve industrial harmony as he applied dialogue to engage stakeholders in the industry, especially, pilots, airline operators, engineers among other bodies.

Safety:

NAMA has demonstrated convincingly that the Nigeria’s airspace is very safe for some time now. The last major air crash in the country was on 3rd of October 2013, involving the Associated Aviation Flight 361 that crashed on take-off from Lagos, killing 15 of the 20 persons on board. Since then Nigeria has maintained a record of no accident involving scheduled or commercial aircraft. The airspace has remained very safe and it has been sustained overtime. In most fora, the NAMA boss has continuously reaffirmed the safety of the air space.

In the same vein, the Aeronautical Division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has expressed confidence in the capacity of the nation’s navigational infrastructure to guarantee safety of air travel in the country. This declaration came at the end of an airport tour of facilities at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) in Lagos.

Chairman, Aeronautical Division, NSE, Engr. Patrick Achurufe said their findings have boosted the confidence of members on the safety of the Nigerian airspace, adding that their on-the-spot assessment of the nation’s navigational tools and how these facilities were being deployed by the personnel in operations revealed that “a lot has been done by NAMA both in terms of acquisition of critical infrastructure and training of appropriate personnel”.

He commended staff of the agency for their diligence and hard work, saying that members were amazed at the dexterity and efficiency with which critical personnel discharged their duties both in communicating with pilots, vectoring aircraft and surveillance of the airspace in general.

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