By Patrick Aigbokhan
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has condemned a publication in one of the nation’s dailies of May 5, 2017, page 19 and 20 with headline: Pilots Warn of Imminent Disaster over Poor Landing Aids, describing it as scandalous, mischievous and totally misleading.
In a release signed by NAMA’s General Manger, Public Affairs, Olajumoke Adetana, theagency said the author made grossly unsubstantiated allegations about the service ability and capacity of the nation’s navigational facilities.
“Ordinarily, we would not have dignified such an alarmist and attention-seeking write-up with a response, but it behoves us as an agency saddled with the statutory responsibility of managing the nation’s airspace to put things in proper perspective, for the benefit of the unsuspecting Nigerian public,” the statement read.
According to the statement, “the author in the said publication alluded to a “ warning” by some faceless and fictitious “Nigerian pilots” about looming tragic accidents due to “poor, obsolete or lack of critical landing aids,” adding that the said nameless pilots “have consistently complained of their inability to communicate in the Nigerian airspace due to epileptic network radio frequency.”
“He goes further to allege inter alia that Nigeria does not have Category Two and Three Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) which could land aircraft in bad weather and that “most of the existing ILS are either malfunctioning or are in epileptic performance.”
NAMA in her reaction to the publication, which was described as porous allegations, believes that the author is either thoroughly ignorant of the massive investments made by the agency in ensuring the present safety level of air navigation in Nigeria, or that he is on a mission to cause mischief and disaffection within the aviation industry and also cast a pall of fear and insecurity in the minds of the flying Nigerian public.
The statement read in part, “First of all, NAMA as the nation’s air navigation service provider has always adhered to the cherished rules and regulations of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) which Nigeria is a party to its charter. Before the closure of Abuja airport for repairs of the runway recently, the ILS/DME and VOR/DME in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Bauchi airports were calibrated by South African Flight Calibration Company (FSCL) and all the facilities presented were certified as operating optimally without restriction and within ICAO specifications.”
Airspace Manager of Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, Mr. Lawrence Ajayi who refuted claims in the publication, that ILS at Runway 18L and 18R were unserviceable, said “Runway 18R has precision approach lighting system which is one of the best in the industry, while 18L has simple approach lighting system because it is not busy at night, and both of them are working at optimal levels.
“On the radios, Radio Frequency 127.3mhz has an improved range and is working perfectly just as the Radio Frequency 124.7 mhz is also in good condition and both of them are on presently.”
Engr. Farouk Umar, Director of Safety Electronics and Engineering Services, who also debunked claims in the said publication, explained, “In aviation, there is nothing like epileptic communication, noting that it is either you are communicating or you are not communicating. If this were to be true, international flights would not have been coming into the country. Nigerian airspace is safe for both local and international flights.
“It is absolutely not true that some areas in the airspace have no communication at all.”
On the issue of ILS, all the agency’s ILS are on Category Two, and most of the aircraft inthe country do not even have the facilities to fly Cat3 because the aircraft need to be equipped with Cat3 facilities to be able to land in zero visibility, just as pilots themselves need to be trained on Cat3.”
“The truth is that the ILS we have, you need other facilities at the airport and in the aircraft to complement them while the runway and the airfield lightings are not within the control of NAMA. Our ILS is Cat2 and the visibility minima is 800 meters which is okay.”
Farouk advised journalists to check their facts well before rushing to press, while also assuring that the Nigerian airspace is as safe as it can be anywhere in the world.
The director added that the relative safety in the nation’s airspace over the last few years is indicative of the fact that NAMA is alive to its responsibilities.