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Delayed crash reports jeopardise accident mitigation

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In Nigeria, crash reports take eternity to be released long after the incidents have been probed. These delays have huge implications on the overall interest of aviation in the country, WOLE SHADARE reports

Flying gets reliable

Flying in a jetliner is extraordinarily safe: There have been no fatal crashes on a U.S. scheduled airline in the past seven years, an astounding record considering that more than 30,000 flights take off everyday. How did flying get so reliable? In part, it is because previous accidents triggered crucial safety improvements via recommendations that helped in no small measure to make flying safe.

Aviation safety is improving all over the world -including Africa and very fast. For over four years now, Nigeria has maintained high safety record. This can be attributed to the race by airlines to be IOSA compliant; a situation the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has made mandatory for airlines to comply with.

The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) programme is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.

The IOSA audit creates a standard that is comparable on a worldwide basis, enabling and maximising the joint use of audit reports.

This has saved the industry over 6400 redundant audits and continues to lead to extensive cost-savings for IOSA participating airlines. All IATA members are IOSA registered and must remain registered to maintain IATA membership.

Jolted to action

The major drive to end air crashes in Nigeria was ignited by the tragic accidents of 2005 and 2006 when the country and the world became seriously concerned by avoidable accidents, which many wished should never happened.

The Sosoliso Flight 1145 in Port Harcourt on December 10, 2005 with 108 fatalities who were largely children, ADC Airlines Flight 53 in Abuja where prominent Nigerians died on October 29, 2006 with 97 fatalities out of 110 on board and the Bellview Airlines Flight 210 on October 22, 2005, where all 117 souls on board were lost at Lisa, Ogun State of Nigeria were eye opener on the poor safety record of airlines in the sector.

Former Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren began systematic and courageous steps to reposition the sector and made safety his mantra. In no time, the industry witnessed a sharp turnaround for the better. The NCAA ever since has followed the template set up by Demuren to make the industry safer.

These tragedies left so much pain in the hearts of Nigerians and cast Nigeria’s airspace as one of the most dangerous in Africa, as the continent has the uncomplimentary record as the most accident-prone in the world.

Correcting anomalies

The desire to correct these anomalies prompted the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to pick interest in Nigeria.

The Dana Air Flight 992 crashed on June 3, 2012 with about 155 fatalities, including 153 souls on-board and two on ground that NCAA was aroused to take a critical decision of making it compulsory that Nigerian airlines must become IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certified before they would be allowed to continue to operate.

But this was not just the decision of Nigeria; it was the decision of African states that met shortly in Abuja after the Dana Air crash. Although the deadline given for the compulsory certification has not been met, IATA has guided Nigerian airlines to meet IOSA condition and improve their operational safety.

Also, NCAA has incorporated IOSA as compulsory for Nigerian airlines, which they must obtain at certain stage before they could be allowed to continue to operate. IATA is supporting every commercial Nigerian airline to go through the IOSA programme and it has shown both financial and technical commitment to ensure this objective is actualised.

Reports gather dust

Delayed reports of accidents have done so much damage to the system because the lesson that must have been learnt becomes no longer useful – especially when the airline or operator of the airplane is extinct or has ceased to operate.

One can imagine the magnitude of the usefulness of a report to an airline if it is released few weeks after the incident or accident.

Many of the reports are released years after the accidents, making it no longer totally useful to the sector or the operator like the case of the crash of Gitto Construction Company Bells Helicopter, which occurred in 2009 but had its report released just last Wednesday. More worrisome is the fact that the company has gone into extinction.

Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) Socata TMB 850 aircraft with registration 5N-BZA crashed in Kaduna on May 21, 2013. The report was also released last week.

The one involving an aircraft belonging to International Aviation College (IAC), which occurred on August 18, 2014 was equally released last week just like the Aero Contractor’s serious incident involving a B737-500 with registration number 5N-BLE, which occurred at flight level 330 feet was released the same day.

Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru, attributed the agency’s inability to publish over 35 air accident investigation reports and train its staff to lack of funds.

He was particularly worried that delay in releasing the reports long after they had been investigated is not too good for the sector.

Speaking in Lagos recently in the wake of the heat generated by the recent approval of five per cent of the revenue accruing from Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) for the agency, which is yet to be adhered to, Olateru also attributed AIB’s inability to release the reports on zero training of accident investigators since 2013.

Developing human capacity

Olateru said the agency needed to develop human capacity to compete with the others hence its request to the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika for five per cent of the revenue accruing from TSC warehoused 100 per cent by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

The agency “only gets a meagre 3 per cent of the revenue from the 5 per cent ticket sales charge and the cargo sales charge (TSC/CSC) collected on behalf of the parastatals by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) while other agencies get more.

Expert’s perspective

Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd) endorsed the position of Olateru on delayed release of accident reports.

He stated that the situation is not good for the system, reiterating that the lessons that should be learnt from crashes are lost if the reports stating recommendations are not released.

His words, “When you are writing a report, there are safety recommendations that must be sent out to the airline, country of aircraft manufacture, country of operation and others that are concerned with the totality of the airline operations. But when the reports are unnecessarily delayed, we lose the whole essence of what had been investigated.”

Last line

Like every accident investigative body, the country’s AIB had done excellently well in investigating plane crashes that had occurred many years ago, but what is very worrisome is allowing the reports of their investigations to gather dust without timely release to the public.

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Aviation

AIS authorisation: All motion, no movement

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Since 1998, it has been more of rhetorics than actualisation of yet-to-be-completed Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) automation. WOLE SHADARE writes that the project may end up as another white elephant project

 

Time factor

Today, we live in a world in constant motion where time and information are becoming more precious. No one wants to lose a minute at doing nothing. It is by integrating this reality that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is developing daily, the critical role of AIS to meet global challenges.

The objective of the AIS is to ensure the flow of information necessary for the safety, regularity and efficiency of international air navigation. When completed, it will enhance air to ground and ground to ground information and boost interconnectivity between aircraft and air traffic controllers.

The AIS is installed in 11 locations and is planned to go on stream at the end of the year but would connect every part of the country by the end of 2017.

To achieve success, all the key agencies or data originators including the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigerian Air Force, etc would need to enhance their data collation, origination, processing, storage and exchange system.

The deliverables

Other deliverables, according to the NAMA boss, would include the enhancement of e-NOTAM, e-Flight Planning, e-AIP, e-TOD, e-Charts, e-Flight briefing and also boost capacity for voice and data communication for both air to ground and ground to ground communication. ICAO Annex 15 states that the AIS shall use automated pre-flight information systems to specify that pre-flight information must be made available at each aerodrome /or heliport normally used for international operations.

This includes all aerodromes/ or heliports designated for regular use by international commercial air transport as listed in the relevant ICAO regional plans and any aerodromes/ or heliports serving as alternates to these regular aerodromes/heliports.

The challenge

The greatest challenge now lie with the NAMA, the NCAA, aviation institutions especially, the NCAT to accelerate the rate of AIS development to keep abreast of the new requirement arising from global demands as Nigeria cannot afford to continue to queue behind surrounding smaller African countries.

Stagnation

Nigeria has over the years remained stagnant with the automation of AIS. While Nigeria has remained stuck in the same position, many have or are moving towards Aeronautical Information Management (AIM).

The aeronautical information/data based on paper documentation and telex-based text messages cannot satisfy anymore the requirements of the ATM integrated and interoperable system and therefore the AIS is required to evolve from the paper product-centric service to the data-centric aeronautical information management (AIM) with a different method of information provision and management.

For that purpose, ICAO has developed a roadmap to reflect the importance of the evolution and to address the required changes and is being referred to as the transition from AIS to AIM.

The roadmap identifies the major milestones recommended for a uniform evolution across all regions of the world, the specific steps that need to be achieved and timelines for implementation.

The transition to AIM will not involve many changes in terms of the scope of information to be distributed. The major change will be the increased emphasis on data distribution, which should place the future AIM in a position to better serve airspace users and ATM in terms of their information management requirements.

It would be recalled that the global aviation regulatory body, ICAO had since 1998 sensitised all contracting state on the need for the services of AIS to be automated. Ever since 1998 in Nigeria, it has been more of hearing and reading on the pages of newspapers of AIS automation and it yet to be completed.

Little progress

In the last five years, a lot of progress had been made in this regard. Before now, fund had been the recurrent impediment of this project. However, since 2016, the story has changed. Immediate past President of Aeronautical Information Management Association of Nigeria (AIMAN), Mr. Shittu Babatunde, stated at the just concluded delegate conference/World AIS Day Celebration held in Ibadan, Oyo State last weekend that he was at a seminar in 2015 where he said they were told not to expect the completion of the project even in 2017.

His words, “That has come to pass. At the user’s end of AIS nationwide, the effect of the project is yet to be seen in our day-to-day operations. While we appreciate the progress so far made by the Ministry, NCAA and NAMA management in this regard, I appeal to once again the Federal Government to see that this project does not become an elephant project”. Not a few are impressed. The international world is not going to wait for the country.

The world is now transiting to System Wide Information Management (swim). November 2015 was the deadline for contracting states to implement Electronic Terrain and Obstacle Data (ETOD), which is far more expensive than the automation and Nigeria is yet to start this.

A must-do for NAMA

Managing Director of NAMA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu reiterated that the agency is aware of the critical deliverables of the Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) project such as the enhancement of e-NOTAM, eFlight Planning, e-AIP, e-TOD, e-Charts, e-Flight briefing and so on.

He said given that the digitalisation represents migration to a dynamic data-oriented aeronautical information management system that facilitates the real-time exchange of aeronautical information in an accurate and standardised format from anywhere to everywhere globally, “the automation project is a must-do for NAMA.”

He said notwithstanding the scarce resources, NAMA would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the AIS Automation process remained on course and completed. The NAMA helmsman lauded staff of the AIS department for their diligence, hard work and dedication to duty.

Last line

AIS remain one of the most critical departments in the agency even though they are hardly given the prominence they deserve, because their job most often, is behind-the-scene. The absence of AIS in the system will bring about chaos in the entire civil aviation.

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Aviation

Tourism-transport summit garners support from aviation agencies

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Aviation agencies have expressed commitment to participate in the Tourism Transport Summit/Expo being anchored by the Institute of Tourism Practitioners (ITP) for the Ministries of Transportation and Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

Agencies such as Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Meteorological Agency,Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) will participate in the summit with theme: ‘Tourism and Transportation: The Key Sectors for Sustainable Resilient Growth and Development’.

In a statement signed by the organizers of the event, Institute of Tourism Practitioners (ITP), the two-day summit is the first edition in a series to be organized annually and is scheduled to hold at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja from 21st – 22nd May, 2018.

The statement highlighted that transportation and tourism is predicted to be one of the world’s highest growing sectors in the new century, creating more jobs and increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of most countries of the world.

The organizers stated that the Summit and Expo are created to build strong synergy and chart the way forward to grow and enhance the two sectors. Other Sub themes of the Summit that includes Potentialities of Developing Regional Inter-Connectivity in Transportation and Inter-Modal Connectivity, Traveler Safety and Security; Licensing Regulations and Oversight–Meeting the International Standards for Sustainable Development of the Transportation and Tourism Industries; and Building Capacity for Global Best Practices in the Tourism and Transportation Sectors.

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Aviation

Airlines jostle for Nigeria’s recovering domestic market

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Many airlines have applied for operating licences, but majority fell by the way side even before they started, while others are at the verge of scaling the hurdles. WOLE SHADARE examines the projected over-capacity on the route if eventually the carriers get their Air Operator Certificate (AOC)

 

Enthusiasm

They came with the hope of getting the all-important AOC. The tedious process had made many of them to fall by the way side. That is the fate of over 26 prospective airlines that were eyeing the domestic aviation market.

 

A total of 32 airlines made up of scheduled and non-scheduled operators are currently listed as holding AOC and are on the register of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as at January 10, 2017 till date.

 

Airlines are categorised into scheduled and non-scheduled on the strength of the type of operations they carry out. A scheduled flight is a trip by airplane that has been planned for a certain time and date. Airlines sell tickets for scheduled flights to help travellers get from one destination to another.

 

The eight airlines that operate scheduled passenger operations are Aero Contractors, Arik, Overland Airways, Medview, Dana, Air Peace, AZMAN and First Nation Airways. A country’s civil aviation authority gets the power to issue AOC to an aircraft operator to allow it use aircraft for commercial purposes.

 

This requires the operator to have personnel, assets and system in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public.

 

The certificate lists the aircraft types and registrations to be used, for what purpose and in what area – specific airports or geographic region.

 

Meanwhile, two of the airlines, out of the 32, ceased to be regarded as airlines, owing to the expiration of their certificates.

 

 

Carriers with active AOC

 

The 30 other airlines with active AOC are Aero Contractors with AOC number CAN/ AOC/12-12/08 valid till January 1, 2019, Allied Air AAL/AOC, 07- 13/003 valid till July 30, 2017, Air Peace APL/A0C/09-14/001 valid till September 7, 2018, Arik Air RIK/AOC/07-10/01 valid till July 11, 2018, Associated Aviation ASS/ AOC/06-15/001 valid till May 31, 2017.

 

Azikel Air AZK/AOC/07-16/001, AZMAN Air AAS/AOC/05-14/002, Bristow Helicopters BHL/AOC/12- 14/002, Caverton Helicopters CH/ AOC/11-14/001, Dana Airlines DAN/ AOC/11-1808/01 and Dornier Aviation DAA/AOC/06-15/002.

 

Others are Executive Jet Services ELS/AOC/03-15/002, First Nation FNA/AOC/10-11/02, Gyro Air Limited GAL/AOC/10-16/001, HAK Air HAK/AOC/04-12/001, Izy Air IZY/AOC/12-15/001, Jed Air JED/ AOC/06-13/002 and King Airlines AAX/C/024.

 

Also included are Max Air MAX/ AOC/06-13/001, Medview Airline MVA/AOC/03-14/001, OAS OAS/ AOC/03/14/002. Others are Overland Airways OAL/AOC/03/14/001, Pan African Airlines PAN/AOC/12-14/001, Skybird Air SKYBIRD/AOC/04-13/08, Skyjet Aviation Services Limited SKL/AOC/12-12/07, Skypower Express Airways AAR/C/018 and West Link Airways WLA/AOC/02-11/002.

 

Also on the list are Nestoil Plc NOL/AOC/03-15/002, OMNI BLU Aviation Limited OBA/AOC/12-15/002 and Top Brass Aviation Limited TBA/ AOC/11-11/03.

 

 

Hurdles

 

Spokesman for NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, disclosed that there were five phases an airline underwent before completing the certification process and many airlines faltered on the way.

 

There is the pre-application phase – when the airline makes enquiry about the processes, followed by the document compliance phase, which involves a certification team reviewing applicant’s documents for compliance acceptance/approval.

 

The others are AOC process, also called demonstration and inspection phase, which involves evaluation by a certification team and applicant’s demonstration of compliance evaluation of management effectiveness, inspection of station(s) facilities, flight operations, maintenance and records.

 

The next is called certification phase, which allows the intending operator for approval of AOC and Operation Specification with coordination with Director for Safety Oversight and DG NCAA.

 

 

Determination

 

While some have fallen by the wayside, others are forging ahead in processing their AOC. There are fears that there would be over capacity on a lean domestic air travel market if some of them succeed in seeing through the process that could land them the licence to operate. They would be jostling for a small air market of about 10 million passengers annually.

 

Many of the routes are very unviable except for the triangular routes of Lagos-Abuja and Port Harcourt and to a large extent, Enugu.

 

A leading airline official said it doesn’t add up in situations where airlines in a bid to woo passengers will have to charge airfares in naira that are as low as N18, 000 to N22, 000 on routes where you fly for almost 45-50minites.

 

“That’s already like running at a loss. In the United States, no airline does a 50 -60 minutes flight and charges $60 (about N25,000), which is what the airlines are doing right now in Nigeria,” he added.

 

 

Backlash fear

 

Fearing a public backlash should they come out openly to announce increase in air fares, most airlines have opted to such subtle measures as raising fares on competitive routes (such as the Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja) or those routes that they enjoy a sort of monopoly, while lowering fares on those with fewer number of passengers.

 

“We do aircraft maintenances in dollars, buy spares in dollars, pay for insurance in dollars, and even buy fuel in dollars. What the CBN supplies is still not sufficient for us. Most of us still get dollars at the parallel market. And by the time we are converting earnings in naira into the dollars, it becomes very obvious in simple economics that the current fares have to go up by more than 60 per cent if airlines must continue to fly and be profitable,” said an airline’s spokesman.

 

“To be honest, the cheapest or most realistic fare Nigerians should be paying on any route within the country should be N40, 000,” he added.

 

 

Expert’s perspective

 

Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd) said, “Let us be honest, the Nigerian domestic airlines cannot be selling passenger flight tickets at N25,000 to Abuja if the dollar is selling at N360 to $1, the same price it was selling two years ago when dollar was at N200 to $1.”

 

“The present cost of aviation fuel, the high operational cost cannot justify the air fare of N25,000 for an hour flight anywhere in Nigeria. The high operational cost also cannot be sustained except the airlines short change service providers and the supporting agencies or there are inflows of cheap monies coming from sources to sustain their operations”.

 

 

Last line

 

New entrants would be worst hit because the current ticket prices are not in sync or responsive to current realities and this is due to unhealthy price wars and pursuit of market dominance at the domestic side of airline business.

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