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Improved air safety in Nigeria, others brighten global aviation

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Many people all over the world still fly with their hearts in their mouths because of fear of plane crash. But the impeccable global aviation safety and over five years of accident-free in Nigeria’s aviation sector and the recent verdict that 2017 was best year ever for aviation safety will rekindle hope in the sector. WOLE SHADARE writes

 

 

Best year ever
In a year when more people flew to more places than ever, 2017 was the safest on record for airline passengers.
Airlines recorded zero accident deaths in commercial passenger jets last year, according to a Dutch consulting firm and an aviation safety group that tracks crashes, making 2017 the safest year on record for commercial air travel.
There were no commercial passenger jet deaths in 2017, but 10 fatal airliner accidents resulting in 44 fatalities on-board and 35 persons on the ground, including cargo planes and commercial passenger turbo prop aircraft.
2017 was the safest year for aviation ever both by the number of fatal accidents as well as in terms of fatalities.
Over the last two decades aviation deaths around the world have been steadily falling. As recently as 2005, there were 1,015 deaths aboard commercial passenger flights worldwide, the Aviation Safety Network said.
In 2016, 412 people were killed in the United States in aviation accidents – nearly all in general aviation accidents and none on commercial passenger airlines.
The chances of a plane being involved in a fatal accident is now one in 16 million, according to the lead researcher, Adrian Young.

Doubts
But air safety expert says ‘It is unlikely that this historic low will be maintained’ and warns of risk of electronic devices causing inflight fires.
No jets crashed in passenger service anywhere in the world. The two crashes, which occurred on New Year’s Eve – a seaplane in Sydney, which killed six, and a Cessna Caravan that crashed in Costa Rica, killing all 12 on board – are not included in the tally, since both aircraft weighed less than 5,700kg – the threshold for the report.

The streak continues
It was a beautiful year also for Nigeria as the country has continued to record accident-free year since the crash of Dana some seven years ago aside light aircraft accident killing a former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu at the Lagos airport shortly after take-off.

Nigeria’s share of crashes
The numerous crashes witnessed, be it the Dana, Sosoliso, Bellview, ADC, EAS, and many others around the globe make people to think twice about whether or not air travel is safe or not.
The crashes increased the fear for people who are already afraid of flying and temporarily make people who may not be phobic to be scared of flying. Nigeria witnessed her worst form of plane crashes between 2005 and 2012 where planes were falling off the sky, leading to passengers taking to road travel.
They could not be convinced that there was serious oversight on most of the planes and airlines in the country until the appointment of a former Director-General of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Olusegun Demuren, who sanitised the system.
However things seem to have improved from 2014 to 2017. Nigeria has not recorded a major aircraft accident since that period.
It is therefore clear either the domestic airlines are now more careful to repeat the mistakes of the past and may have stepped up with regards to making safety their watchword, while the new entrants that have not witnessed major accidents may have taken seriously the recommendations of Accident Investigation Bureau and that of the NCAA.

Airlines take bull by the horn
Experts in the sector have disclosed that the reason Nigeria had accident-free year in 2017 is basically because airlines were principally responsible for safety and intensified their human capital development.
Chairman, Aviation Round Table, Gbenga Olowo, noted that in the past five years, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) have made its members to be principally responsible for safety and not necessarily the regulatory body.
“Airlines in their strive for safety also do not go the extra mile to subject themselves to audit by other jurisdiction outside its own registration. For example, The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification in addition to that of the NCAA”, Olowo stated.
He explained that carriers have also identified human capital development through routine and schedule training for all pilots in particular error account for about 80 per cent of all aviation accidents.
He disclosed that there has also been implementation of safety management system and more budgets have been set aside for maintenance and dedicated account for maintenance reserve as accident is planned through neglect and poor maintenance.

Experts’ perspectives
Speaking on accident free year for Nigeria, Olowo also observed that operators are successfully moving to newer and younger fleets with lower operational and maintenance cost, making available funds at low costs through financial institutions.
He said there have been more economic lease and lesser purchase considerations from aircraft suppliers, as well as continuous advocacy for improved aviation infrastructure, acceleration of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety related standard and recommended practices.
An aviation safety expert who pleaded anonymity, said airlines have the tendency to cut corners but noted that it is the responsibility of NCAA to ensure proper checks are carried out on the airlines, especially on the aircraft maintenance and pilot certifications.
He noted that during accident investigations, AIB is able to reveal a lot of things either on the side of the regulators, the airlines or service providers.

Last line
The media plays a huge part in magnifying the illusion of control. Plane crashes are turned into video images of twisted wreckage and dead bodies, then beamed into every home on television screens, says an accident investigator. In a society with a free press and a great number of publications, the likelihood that bad things will happen can be overstated to the point where the public begins to think and act irrationally.
However, despite these high profile disasters and the media coverage around them, last year was industry’s safest.

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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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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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