By UCHE USIM
Part of the projects of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) in 2013 is massive investment in Automatic Dependent Surveillance Systems (ADSS) to take care of low level flights in the South-South region, and some parts of the north.
This is in line with its mandate of improving and sustaining safe airspace.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive of NAMA, Engr Nnamdi Udoh, in a recent chat with Daily Sun, said the agency also plans to consolidate on what was achieved in 2012.
He thus advises all staff and stakeholders to cooperate with the management to realize the noble goal of a safe and secure airspace, stressing that putting spanners in the wheel of progress of the organization by some jaundiced few was not in the interest of the country.
He speaks more on NAMA.
Plans and projects for 2012
Yes! We’ve plans and projects we want to wrap up in 2012. Basically, we want to consolidate on what we have done. We also have to explore new grounds. Consolidation in the area of Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) system is sustained. And of those major areas are to resolve any existing areas of difficulties by the airlines, in terms of flight planning, communication, and of course, implement new airspace utilization system. In other words, make flying seamless. By this, you save time, fuel and money for the airlines and at the end of the day, air transport will just be the preferred mode of transportation. That’s our goal.
We’ve finished our Performance Based Navigation (PBN) programme. And, of course, in implementing PBN, the airlines have a role to play. So, they too have to catch up. We’ve done the training for the airlines. We’ve done the awareness programme too. And we’re just waiting for the airlines and the NCAA to wrap up the regulatory side of it and come up with its own implementation structure. We’re ready. The charts have been done. The survey is finished and we’ve publicized the work.
We also met the deadline for the ICAO flight plan, which was November 16, 2012. This means Nigeria is compliant with ICAO
Issues with radio/ATCs/status of airspace
Today, Nigeria’s airspace is very safe. Today, our radios are very useable and comfortable by the airlines. Let me illustrate further on the areas of antagonism and criticism which, of course, you would expect from dissidents. No matter how good a father is, he would always have children who are dissidents. And that’s how I treat them. But, again, because they’re my children, I accommodate them. Some of them would have expected a sack; some would have have expected suspension, interdiction etc. But I don’t have time for all that, because it’ll be a distraction for me.
The truth of the matter is that, as we sit here, I’ve visited the airport as early as 5am. I’ve been here listening to the radio and we don’t have any issues with radio on frequency 1273 for the south, and 1209. However, to a non-professional, what I have to say is this: By the time this airspace was surveyed and structured, there were 10 aeroplanes in the country flying. Today, there are 200 aeroplanes and, what do you expect, congestion.
And when there’s congestion, you talk, another man listens and you wait till you’re responded to. So, there are some kind of delay, channelization…and that we solved by providing an alternative frequency, and also by providing some technologically-driven chatting for anybody that is assessing the radio. So, you wouldn’t even notice that you’re being discriminated against by the radio itself and, as far as the next caller finishes, you have access to the radio.
And we’ve monitored and discovered that the Remote Air to Ground Frequency (RCAG) that’s installed in Port Harcourt is a modem-based remote controlled radio system. It’s been working perfectly. But if these radios will give no problem, then there will be no need for any electronics engineers in the system. So, if there was a problem today, that does not mean the radio didn’t work yesterday.
And my attitude is, we’ll continue to address the problem as they arise in the system. But today, we don’t have any problem with our radios. The issue of problems, the issue of human factor (of Air Traffic Controllers talking too much, passing levels, souls on board bla bla bla) whereas we’re using radar, we’re addressing it. My comfort zone is that it was the same attitude they had with the TRACON. Now, they’re no more talking about the TRACON. So, now it’s radio and perhaps very soon, they’ll look for something else to talk about. We’re on course. We’re on track and we can comfortably tell Nigerians that our airspace is safe.
Yes! There are internal mechanisms and procedures for discipline. But when you are transforming a system, there would be agitations. If you address every agitation, you’ll lose focus. Let us finish our transformation and let nobody not key in. Such a person has only said he/she doesn’t want to work in the organization. So, I’ll leave it at that.
Total VHF Coverage
Total VHF Coverage of Nigeria is to provide total coverage of the Nigerian airspace by radio. In other words, there’s no way a pilot will fly in Nigeria and he’ll say he cannot talk to a control tower or an approach centre, or a flight information centre. And of course, anyone who flies in Nigeria without talking to the appropriate ATC unit is committing an offence. And there’s no reason why a pilot in this country will fly if he’s not talking to somebody, simple.
Let me also explain further that for every radar, it comes with a radio. But, in airspace engineering, there’s another aspect we call Total (Very High Frequency) VHF Radio Coverage of Nigeria’s airspace. That is having a total coverage for radio communication of the airspace. You know there were some years they said there used to be blind spots in our airspace. That’s history now because the radios are all overlapping through what we call Remote Controlled Air to Ground (RCAG) system. So, you cue a radio here, it’s not cued here alone, it’s also cued in Lagos, Port Harcourt. If you go up north, it’s also cued in Wukari, in Kano, Abuja and so on, by means of a modem system, which works with a computer.
So, there are computerized things. And we’re achieving total VHF coverage 90 percent. The reason is that that of Kano Airport is just awaiting the final completion of the control tower there and in Wukari which will be the remote site for it. Once that is done, we integrate it. So that what you’re cueing in Kano is also being received in Wukari to complete that sector. That is the total VHF coverage. But, for every radar site, as they see you and you’re under radar control, they communicate with you on the VHF that is attached to the radar.
And we also have what we call long range VHF. It’s like a Frequency Modulated kind of technology, in other words line of sight. That’s why if you have a walkie talkie, you cannot talk to somebody in Victoria Island from Ikeja except you have a remote station which we used to call repeater station or booster station. But today, it’s remotely managed by means of a modem of computer technology.
Sectorization of the nation’s airspace
Sectorization practically means a pilot flying from Lagos say to PHC will be talking to a particular frequency and another coming from PHC-Lagos will be talking to a particular frequency all in the southern zone. Now, if the man should have been talking to one frequency, he will talk to that frequency from Lagos-PHC for say 240 nautical miles instead of talking to it for 140 nautical miles and transit to PHC. So, what we’ve had over the years is 1273 mega hertz frequency for the southern sector is serving point to end, instead serving and transiting to Lagos-East or Lagos West depending on where he’s flying from and that’s what we mean by sectorization.
Projects and financing
Well, one advantages of project management is working within the envelope of available finance and that’s what we have done. And as a man that has been involved in project for many years, we look at our priorities. The money is not in abundance. So, we appropriate and apply funds in projects that will impact positively in the agency and the country as a whole. That’s what we are doing. We wish and are able to do more for the system, but the money is not available. So, we are managing safety critical projects and concluding existing projects without embarking on new ones.
We need to invest right now in our Automatic Dependent Surveillance Systems (ADS-S) for the riverine areas in the Niger/Delta and for the northern sectors like Zaria and Kano. So, ADSB needs immediate investment.
For the Niger/Delta, there so many helicopter operations going on there, which are low level flight operations. For Zaria, there’s the training school and of course Kano because of the military operations in that place.
It’s all centred around human factor and my advice to all is join me, put your hand on the plough and let’s move forward. And when you don’t put your hand on the plough, when the train moves, you might fall off and you’ll not blame me. Financing is also a major issue.
How TRACON works
Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria’s Airspace simply means that wherever you’re flying in Nigeria, you’re covered by a radar service. And it’s divided according to the Flight Information Region (FIR) of Nigeria by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), with the execution directive on the African Indian Ocean (AFI) region of ICAO. Under that platform, we’ve one FIR in Nigeria divided into two Fight Information Centres (FICs), which is Lagos and Kano. So, TRACON is divided in two, Kano and Lagos and sub-centres in Port Harcourt and Abuja.
It’s done that way because no Air Traffic Controller (ATC) can stay in Lagos and be talking to an aircraft in Yola; in Port Harcourt. So, everyone has his sectors, but there’s what we call behind the back scale; we see all these at the engineering platform, not the operational platform. So, a lot of people will come to Lagos and they’ll see aircraft in Port Harcourt and Lagos and see aircraft and say ah!, that it’s not covered. That’s just ignorance. And the best thing to do is go to those places and see effective radar coverage of Nigeria’s airspace.
However, it’s important to also know that each of these sites creates 250 nautical miles coverage and with their overlapping, it creates 500 nautical miles as each overlaps.
So, it’s not magic that you can now stay in Lagos and watch aircraft land in Port Harcourt. And because of our flight information jurisdiction and FIC jurisdiction and sub-centres, what will the man in Port Harcourt be doing when the man in Lagos is controlling his aircraft? So, they get to what we call terminal boundaries (TMAs). You simply transfer the aircraft to the next available controller. And that’s why we have towers, approach and aerial controllers. Even in Lagos, Abuja, PHC, Kano or any ATC unit, they have jurisdictions.
If you call for start up, you’re talking to tower controller; you take off, you’re transferred to approach and you go higher, they transfer you to aerial controller, depending on the jurisdiction of that airport. For instance, if you’re taking off from Owerri Airport, you cannot climb above a certain height until you are cleared by Port Harcourt, Kano or Lagos ATC, because Owerri has its own jurisdiction, PHC has, likewise Kano and Lagos. Otherwise, flights leaving Kano, Owerri, Lagos, Benin, Port Harcourt will depart and fly into each other. So, the jurisdiction each unit has is a mathematical analysis of air traffic control. If you look at the map, you cannot manually manage aircraft there because it is complicated. So, every aerodrome has its jurisdiction and, with that, the airspace is efficiently managed.
People perish for lack of knowledge, and the knowledge is that Nigeria, today, enjoys total radar coverage for her airspace.