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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

Threat amid runway risks

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With every tragic high profile crash, the general public’s feeling about airline safety takes a punch. WOLE SHADARE writes

 

Safety issue

The recent incursion of Akure airport runway by cows that prevented Air Peace aircraft to delay landing for about 20 minutes has again brought to the fore the need to improve aviation safety through ensuring that airport runways are clear of obstruction.

A runway incursion is an incident where an unauthorized aircraft, vehicle or person is on a runway. This adversely affects runway safety, as it creates the risk that an airplane taking off or landing will collide with the object. It is defined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicles or persons on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft.

While aviation has been getting safer of late, runway incursions by aircraft or vehicles remain a weak spot. After all, during each flight, the passengers literally put their lives in the hands of complete strangers.

Rising incursions

Although general aviation accidents have been decreasing over the past few years, incursions with all dangers attached to them have been increasing at an alarming rate. It is merely a matter of time for these incursions to become tragic accidents. Last week Saturday, scores of cattle made incursion into the runway of the Akure Airport, in Ondo State, preventing an Air Peace flight, which left Lagos for Akure from landing immediately until they were dispersed by security men.

March 8, 2011, the Hawker 850 aircraft carrying the then Vice-Presidential candidate of ACN, Mr. Fola Adeola, experienced scenario of runway incursion by goats and sheep at Bauchi airport.

Sources at the airport said the incident, which has become a regular feature at the airport premises occurred around 12:00 am, causing initial disturbance to the airline and passengers, forcing the former to hover mid-air for some minutes.

“The herdsmen foraged into the runaway causing some disturbance and preventing the aircraft from landing around 11:30am. The incident lasted for about 10 minutes until Aviation Security personnel, (AvSec), arrested the situation,” a source at the airport told New Telegraph.

Rising to the occasion

The management Air Peace said that flight P4 7002 from Lagos had to delay landing into Akure Airport when the pilot-in-command sighted cows on the runway at about 12.15pm. “On being alerted by control tower, aviation security personnel of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN AVSEC) quickly intervened and cleared the runway. “The flight was eventually cleared to land after about seven minutes.

Our guests on board were all calm while the delay lasted. The aircraft departed for Lagos at about 11.06 with full escort from FAAN security personnel. Confirming the incident, Air Peace Corporate Communications Manager, Mr. Chris Iwarah said: “We confirm that flight P4 7002 from Lagos had to delay landing into Akure Airport today (Saturday) when the pilot-in-command sighted cows on the runway at about 12.15pm.

“On being alerted by control tower, aviation security personnel of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN AVSEC) quickly intervened and cleared the runway.

“The flight was eventually cleared to land after about seven minutes. Our guests on board were all calm while the delay lasted. The aircraft departed for Lagos at about 1.06 with full escort from FAAN security personnel.”

India tops

Last week’s incident is reminiscent of what happened in 2005 when Air France plane, with 196 people on board, ploughed into the cows as it touched down at Port Harcourt.

No-one on board was hurt, but the collision left seven cows dead and the runway was soaked with their blood. The embarrassment led to the Minister of Aviation at that time, Mallam Isa Yuguda to summon airport officials to explain the security breach.

Runway incursions are today one of the major factors affecting flight safety. In India, there are numerous cases of small accidents involving runway incursions every year, with the potential always present for a major disaster, such as the Tenerife airport collision on March 27, 1977, when two Boeing 747 passenger aircraft collided on the runway of Los Rodeos Airport (now known as Tenerife North Airport) on the Spanish island of Tenerife.

A total of 583 passengers died in that incident, making it the deadliest accident in aviation history. Even if accidents are avoided, incursions often cause costly flight delays.

Animals on the Runway

Animals on the runway are a particularly pervasive problem at many airports in India. There are numerous examples. In 2005, an aircraft taking off from Pune International Airport ran over a stray animal, which resulted in a two-hour delay for flights.

In 2008, an Air India aircraft narrowly escaped accident when it hit an Indian blue bull during landing at Kanpur Airport in Uttar Pradesh. Also in 2008, a Kingfisher Airlines aircraft hit a stray dog on the runway at the HAL Bangalore International Airport, resulting in the aircraft’s landing gear collapsing.

The aircraft skidded off the runway and its nose collapsed; four passengers were injured. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan recently ordered an Airport Environmental Committee (AEC) enquiry into the recurring mishaps – hundreds every year – caused by stray animals on the runway at Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport in Nagpur.

Perimeter absence at most airports

The absence of perimeter fences at most of the country’s airports has always posed a challenge to FAAN because of the huge capital outlay required in constructing perimeter fences, some of which are as long as 40 kilometres, across the 22 network of airports across the country. Some of the perimeter fence projects commenced in 2014 while the remaining ones were expected to be executed in 2015.

Bushes around the runways, particularly, airports that are not busy like the Akure, Ibadan, Jigawa and many others that were built by state governments but forced down the throats of FAAN, do not give full view of the perimeter, to allow both the control tower, FAAN Fire and Rescue observation posts and aviation security patrol teams have a sweeping view of the entire perimeter of an airport from their duty posts.

Static observation posts are yet to be erected at strategic locations within the perimeter fence of many of the airports to forestall premeditated and inadvertent unauthorized access to the airside.

Last line

What will really put the fear of flying into the hearts of passengers is when they personally experience an incident on the runway. Safety first is at the core of flight crew and air traffic control alike, still runway incidents and accidents keep occurring.

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Aviation

Gulfstream G500 Jet launches in Nigeria

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The all-new Gulfstream G500 business jet made its Nigerian debut this week, with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation’s senior executives visiting Nigeria to give current and potential customers an opportunity to experience first-hand the new aircraft’s cutting-edge technology, unparalleled comfort and superior craftsmanship.

The Gulfstream G500 business jet was on display for private viewing at the ExecuJet Terminal of the Murtala muhammed International Airport in Lagos on February 16 and 17. At a networking event attended by senior leaders from diverse sectors of the Nigerian economy, Commercial Counsellor Brent Omdahl, according to a statement, reaffirmed the strong economic ties between the United States and Nigeria.

“The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service continues to facilitate long term business relationships between companies from the United States and Nigeria. We are excited to welcome this stellar group from the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation to share their experience and expertise with Nigerian business executives,” Omdahl said. Private aviation is a growing industry in Nigeria, which is home to more than 20 Gulfstream business aircraft, most of them large-cabin, long-range jets capable of connecting companies and business owners with their corporate interests around the globe.

The Gulfstream G500, for example, can fly 8,149 km at nine-tenths the speed of sound, easily carrying passengers from Lagos to London or Moscow. At Mach 0.85, the aircraft can travel 9,630 km, linking Lagos with Caracas or Mumbai.

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Aviation

Long road to national carrier

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Anxiety mixed with uncertainty could best describe the slow pace of work to establish a national airline. WOLE SHADARE writes

Mission impossible?
Can Nigeria pull this through? Many are very desirous of a national airline for Nigeria but the slow speed of actualising the dream is beginning to dampen the spirit of many who thought by now, the issue of a national carrier would have been put to rest.
Just last weekend, Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika rekindled hope that in the next couple of months, “we should be closer to having a national airline. He noted that the country was very close to getting a national airline.”
Luthansa project flops
The Lufthansa saga seriously looked as if the entire project had collapsed before it even took off, leading to insinuations in some quarters that the government was not serious about one of the key things it promised to do in 2015.
Lufthansa Consortium’s contract that was expected to mid-wife a national carrier was terminated with the government explaining that the decision was taken in the best interest of the nation.
The minister alleged that the firm changed the term of contract it had with the government by demanding that aside asking for 75 per cent of N341 million upfront payments, which he said was not in line Nigeria’s procurement law, also alleged that the firm wanted the money to be converted to Euros, which was also not acceptable to them.
His words, “What transpired at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, which I explained very clearly is that we substituted Lufthansa Consulting as part of the consortium to provide transaction advisory services for the establishment of a national carrier.
“The reason is very simple and clear. We thought that Lufthansa Consortium is an arm of Lufthansa Airline Group and this may compromise the process. They might be interested party latter in the day of this procurement and this may compromise the system. We want it to be transparent, as fair and equitable as it should be.
“They wanted about 75 per cent to be paid of the sum ab nitio and this is not in line with procurement laws. The contract was in Naira N341million but they wanted to change it Euros and this was not acceptable to us. This was neither in our request for proposal. What we did was there were many in the consortium; we substituted them with another company that is even fair, that is no appendage to any other company that might be interested. So, they are more of a neutral company to take over the place of Lufthansa “, he added.
Although, Lufthansa Consortium is yet to speak on the matter, a source close to the firm said it has a reputation that would not want to be tarnished because of the  way the Federal Government went about the whole bidding process which was less than transparent.
Many, who spoke to New Telegraph, said the failure of flag carriers in Nigeria has made the government to look inwards with a view to making air transport easier for the teeming Nigerian public who have been short-changed over the years with bad services, unreliable schedule and many other customer related problems.
Lamentation
Many flag carriers have collapsed over the years. Many do not know where to turn to. While the lamentation continues, foreign airlines have perfectly filled the void and providing seamless air travel needs to very mobile populace.
While airline collapses have become commonplace with Aero and Arik going under during the past few years, the loss of flag carriers is a frequent phenomenon.
For sure, we ‘ve seen high profile bankruptcies; Arik and Aero immediately come to mind. But in both cases, the government worked hard to get them rescued.
Both Rwanda and Zimbabwe are good examples of why small countries need their own airlines. Big nation such as Nigeria needs it more than ever before.
With not enough space on the tarmac for a host of home-grown competition, countries need their own airlines to stimulate trade, boost tourism and in many cases, assert their  sovereignty.
Conventional wisdom suggests that states have no business running airlines. Indeed, the past few decades have seen most major economies sell their flag carriers to other airline groups or list them on the local bourse-often keeping minority stakes for sentimental purposes. The results have been mixed, at best.
Expert’s view
An aviation consultant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he also believes there’s a need for the governments to offer essential services to their citizens. In the case of countries with small populations or lacking strategic hubs, this also means underwriting the national airline.
Consultants might argue that this is wholly unnecessary, as other airlines will swoop down to soak up demand. But there is considerably more at stake than just ensuring every flight boasts 80 per cent load factor. On a good day, a national airline is an embassy with wings-transporting culture, cuisine, commerce and goodwill around the world.
Ethiopian Airlines is a flying example of resourcefulness and ingenuity. A flag carrier that instils a sense of pride when its tail is spotted on the runway of a far-off land; when it brings home the winning team or when it flies out of to evacuate citizens stranded in a conflict or disaster zone.
In an increasing globalised world, smart governments recognise the importance of having their flags fluttering on as many routes as possible. It is a mileage that certainly hasn’t been lost on Singapore, whose government owns the highly respected Singapore Airlines, or Dubai, home of Emirates. In both cases, these small states have made their airlines part of their national identity and growth strategy.
Last line
As governments around the world continue to tighten their belts, they also have the to remember there are some things you simply have to protect such as education, national security, banks and infrastructure are fundamental. An airline to call your own is also useful to get your citizens around the world and bring in visitors to invest and marvel at your achievements.

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