Chinelo Obogo, Lagos

The National President of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Abayomi Agoro, has said that technical and operational training for industry personnel have not been given the much-needed attention they deserve by the Nigerian Air Management Agency (NAMA).

Speaking at a one-day interactive session with aviation stakeholders on the theme ‘Airport Collaborative Decision Making, Capacity Development and Planning as Catalysts for Aviation Safety’, which was done in collaboration with Flight Crew Association of Nigeria (FCAN) and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) held in Lagos, Agoro said many Air Traffic Controllers (ATCO) hardly go for On-The-Job-Trainings (OJT) because of paucity of funds.

He said that NAMA, the agency responsible for providing Air Traffic Control services and ensuring air safety, has not been able to provide core operational training, with attention being given instead to support staff.

“So much confidence had been reposed on our aviation industry and we cannot afford to fritter resources away, considering the goodwill the sector has built over the years. In my candid opinion, the time is right to reflect on some salient issues, one of which is the training of operational/technical staff in the sector.

“Our personnel need training and re-training. We have to draw the attention of the relevant aviation authorities to the deficit in training and requisite exposure that has been lacking lately. These training programmes are important so as to meet up with ICAO recommendations and ultimately give our staff the knowledge, skill and technical exposure to tackle whatever challenges that may crop up in the course of duty.

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“As we all know, NAMA is the recognised aviation agency saddled with the responsibility of providing Air Traffic Control services and ensure safety, but sadly NAMA, with all due respect, has not been able to deliver on her core operational trainings. We are all living witnesses to the very fact that Technical/Operational training for relevant personnel have not been given the much-needed attention they deserve. Rather, and ironically too, priority attention is continuously being given to support staff. The training fund allotted to Technical/Operational staff is grossly inadequate, while NAMA expends a lot to train support staff on administrative courses abroad.

“It is sad to note that our ATCOs are not exposed to the requisite training regime and the few that came our way were inadequate to meet the set target. Note also that many ATCOs hardly go for On-The-Job-Trainings (OJT) as and when due for reasons of paucity of funds. These trainings are a standard operational requirement and in conformity with global best practices. This is an unwholesome development and if care is not taken the widening gap in what is supposed to be a regular training programme could ultimately jeopardise the safety and impair our ICAO/FAA ratings,” Agoro said.

Roberts Ronald, the president of FCAN, said more effort should be put in by all the relevant aviation agencies to prevent errors caused by poor designs, bad management decisions, incorrect installations, and poorly structured organisations.

“In Crew Resource Management (CRM), a course all pilots compulsorily undertake yearly, 2 major groups of errors are identified: Active errors, called the sharp end, which occur at the frontline operator level i.e. by pilots and the second group of errors is latent which includes poor designs, bad management decisions, incorrect installations, and poorly structured organisations.

“Most of the time, we focus only on mitigating the active errors and give no active thought to the latent errors, probably because this is its nature: salient, unperceived and stems from across multiple organisations such as the NCAA, FAAN, NAMA, Airlines and others. But it’s not all negative. Our theme should be an ongoing conversation that addresses employee training and succession plans, with actionable points to arrest latent but equally dangerous errors that increase the workload at the sharp end,” Ronald said.

The president of NAAPE, Galadima Abednego, lauded the collaborative efforts employed by the forum and emphasized that the usual approach model in NAAPE is collaboration and creative cooperation in dealing with its social partners. He said the association has instituted an annual safety award to encourage all aviation stakeholders to do more on safety.