Experts: How To Make Nigerian Airspace Safe

The Federal Government has been urged to invest in ground communication equipment that will enhance pilots-air traffic controllers’ synergy to ensure air safety.

This was the position of President of National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Abayomi Agoro, who lamented that poor communication and training on new facilities were the bane of the sector in terms of air safety.

Agoro, who spoke at a seminar put together by Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) with theme, “Preventing Human Factors in Air Accident Investigation,” held at the weekend in Lagos, disclosed that airlines were not compliant with some of the new technologies introduced and even staffs are not gone through their training.

According to him, “the issue of communication has been something we have been calling on government and NAMA as service provider to do more. The poor communication is not only from the ground equipment at times also it is from the air stations but most of the time these are some things that can degenerate to incidents or accidents.

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“Even now that we have data exchange which has to do with the CPDLC not all the airlines are compliant with that and not all the controllers have gone through the training so definitely, it’s one of the areas we have to look critically into to prevent human factors we are talking about.”

Corroborating Agoro, representative of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Akin George, described communication system in Nigeria as weak.

A control tower helps aircraft in flight separation

He said: “The communication system in Nigeria is quite weak; this has been a recurring problem for the last 10-15 years. Solutions have been put in, we take one step forward and within a month or two we are back to the norm”.

“We have been talking on human factors today and we know one of the critical elements is communication, if you cannot communicate with your controller; then who is controlling who? As of today the communication between aircraft and the services coming out of Kano to Lagos is extremely weak.

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“If you happen to be operating from the eastern side of the country, coming out of Calabar or Uyo, Port-Harcourt and you’re heading towards Kano, it’s extremely weak, in most cases you have to get another aircraft to rely your information.

“Now whilst all this is going on the aircraft does not stay in one place and so you have a dynamic situation which for me, remains high risk and that is one of the areas we need to tackle as soon as possible in order to reduce the risk.“

Commissioner, AIB, Akin Olateru, stated that aircraft accidents were dominated by human factor failure, explaining that it was vital to understand the complexity of human factors within a system with the intent of reducing it to the barest minimal.

He said: “Despite of a positive development in the trend of accidents recorded since the beginning of the 21st Century, the number of air accidents is still unsatisfactory. Consequently, it is of paramount importance to do everything that would contribute to substantial reduction of the human factor failure in air transportation.

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“A system of models appears to be an important tool for overall understanding of the complexity of human factors, serving as starting-points to an analytical and classification research of the human factor. At the same time, these models enable qualified investigation and assessment of the causes of air accidents and incidents, thereby preventing them from repeated occurrence.”

The Federal Government through the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has continued to make investment in that direction but the country is yet to find total solution to the difficulty experienced by both pilots and controllers. They have at different fora expressed frustration at the situation they currently experience.

Wole Shadare