NAMA laments neglect of equipment
Agency installs CAT 3 ILS at Lagos, Abuja airports
Except the Federal Government urgently comes to the aid of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the 64 million Euros airspace surveillance system, otherwise known as Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON), may collapse due to lack of spare parts.
Managing Director of NAMA, Capt. Folayele Akinkuotu, made the startling revelation yesterday at aviation stakeholders’ forum in Lagos.
He, however, stated that the radar has remained functional, thanks to the ingenuity of NAMA engineers who have kept it working, stressing that the contractors for the multibillion naira project, Thales, a French firm, had reneged in supplying spares for the life-saving equipment.
This is coming as the Agency has installed category three Instrument Landing System (ILS) in Lagos and Abuja airports to aid flight operations during harmattan or inclement weather.
The new high-power instrument would make aircraft land or take off at zero visibility, using instrument rather than visual for flight movement.
Akinkuotu disclosed that the multi-million naira facility would be installed in 17 airports across the country.
Corroborating Akinkuotu, Director, Engineering and Electronic Services for NAMA, Farouk Ahmed, said the Agency has been having challenges with the equipment since 2014, adding that “for over two years, Thales had refused to supply us spare parts.”
His words: “Since 2014, we have been managing this (Radar) without spares. We are pleading with the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to plead with Thales of France to do the needful.”
Although the equipment has helped to aid airspace surveillance, controversy generated by its installation has remained since it was commissioned in 2012.
The aim of TRACON is to provide total visibility of the Nigerian airspace stretching over 315 nautical miles. When Nigerian airspace is under full radar coverage, all flights originating, terminating and over-flying Nigerian airspace will remain in radio and radar contact with the air traffic controllers every inch of the way.
Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) wants the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, assist the Agency to upgrade and modernise the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) for a safe and efficient air transport in the country.
The contract for TRACON was awarded in 2003 by President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration at the sum of 67 million Euros to Thales ATM GmbH, a French company.
Even though the project was commissioned in 2012 with fanfare, aviation experts familiar with TRACON have described as fraudulent how the project was conceived and executed.
Akinkuotu said the agency needs mobile towers for safe air navigation as the two currently in use were inadequate to cater for the 21 airports managed by government and other private airports requiring their services.
He noted that Benin and Calabar airports were in dire need of Instrument Landing System (ILS) as the routes into these airports were difficult ones, especially during the rainy and harmattan seasons.
The NAMA boss, however, noted that despite these challenges, the agency had been able to address the radio communication system with the optimization of the Very High Frequency (VHF) radio for Upper Airways communication between the pilots and air traffic controllers, installation of Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), ILS in 12 locations and a Category III ILS in Lagos and Abuja, among others.
According to him, efforts are on to ensure that its personnel were given the requisite trainings to improve their knowledge and keep them abreast of new technology to facilitate seamless air navigation in Nigeria.
Akinkuotu said that before the end of the year, the ILS III would be installed in Lagos and Kano airports once funds were granted to the agency by the Ministry of Transportation.
He said early in 2017, there were complaints of shortcomings in the performance of Communication, Navigation, Surveillance and Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) facilities on assumption of duty as management team in NAMA.
“There was desire for urgent improvement by our customers. Also, request for staff training and improvement in the welfare of the workforce was in the forefront of the welcome address delivered by the labour unions within the agency.
“Our approach was to identify and apply measures in the short, medium and long terms to respond to these issues. I can report today that some of the measures implemented are already yielding positive results,” Akinkuotu said.
According to him, a notable short-term measures implemented to address radio communication challenge was optimisation of the Very High Frequency (VHF) radio for Upper Airways communication between Air Traffic Controllers and pilots, which recorded a significant success.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has promised to upgrade NAMA’s infrastructure toward enhancing safety of the nation’s airspace.
The minister of state for aviation said that aviation was a key means of transportation that contribute to the nation’s economic growth and development.
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