Based on the findings of a recent investigation, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency will require as much as N50 billion to fix bad and weak airspace communication and ground-based equipment.
The money will specifically be set aside for the repairs of satellite and navigational equipment such as Very High-Frequency Radio (VHF Radio) Category, Three Instrument Landing Systems, Distance Measuring Equipment, and other critical air navigation infrastructure.
Part of the money will also be spent on providing a secondary source of power through the installation of solar panels. This will serve some highly sophisticated ground-based en-route navigation equipment located at remote locations across the country.
NAMA needs money: According to sources, the agency’s budgetary provisions cannot match the huge cost for its equipment upgrade. Note that the agency mostly operates in a self-sustaining mode.
In the meantime, NAMA has already started receiving complaints from pilots over the poor state of communication in the Nigerian aviation industry.
Communication challenges: Questions has been tabled by pilots to NAMA concerning the issue facing communication. The pilots have also urged the government to take urgent steps to address the communication challenges in the air space with a view to averting air accidents.
The Chief Pilot of Med-View Airline, Captain Stephen Fevrier, recently stated that pilots fly in unsafe airspace in the country owing to a poor communication system.
“I came to Nigeria about 12 years ago and the first thing that we were told to learn as pilots is to say break-break when you get into the airspace and that is because the airspace is congested. I must say that the airspace is still congested and unsafe for pilots to fly.”
He went further to add that when flying from Lagos to Abuja, pilots often lose contact with the Lagos control tower 200 miles into the airspace. The same situation occurs between Port Harcourt and Abuja, he said. Even when flying into Nigerian airspace from Jeddah, pilots hardly communicate effectively with the control tower in Kano, the pilot revealed.
This scary situation should never be.
Arik Air’s Safety Manager, Captain Jide Bakare, also spoke about the risks posed by poor communication equipment. He noted that the biggest issue that Nigerian pilots are currently grappling with is the problem of communication in the airspace.
“There are so many issues but communication is one of the biggest challenges that we face as pilots in Nigerian airspace.”
Foreign airlines still fly: An official of the agency said that despite the challenges of communication in the airspace, foreign airlines still make use of Nigerian airspace.
The source added that requests for more flight frequencies by some airlines including Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines do not align with reports suggesting that airlines are avoiding Nigeria.
He further stated that no pilot or airline would embark on a suicidal mission to fly into any country’s airspace if her skies are not safe.