After much pressure, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) equipped 18 airports across the country with Category II instrument landing systems costing over $6 million. Some of these are Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), a navigation beacon usually coupled to enable aircraft to measure their position relative to that beacon, and VHF omnidirectional range (VOR). The aim is to aid airlines to take off and land at low visibility.
Domestic airlines lose an estimated N800,000 million during harmattan season when low visibility occasioned by haze leads to flight delays and cancellations. Now that these aids have been provided, it is expected that operators who had blamed the agency for loss of funds due to the absence of these aids should now heave a sigh of relief and immediately begin to benefit from the multimillion-dollar instruments.
Sadly, this is not the case. In order to make use of the facilities, every aircraft needs to have on-board equipment to match the facilities on ground and pilots need to be trained on how to handle the equipment. Out of seven domestic airlines operating in Nigeria, only one has this corresponding equipment in its aircraft, BusinessDay’s findings show. As such, foreign airlines, because they have the corresponding equipment, enjoy the benefits of these new facilities, according to an air traffic controller who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We have Performance Based Navigation (PBN) at least in 18 of our airports. Arik Air is the only indigenous carrier that benefits from it. They can fly to lower minimums so long as their pilots are trained. But they have approval to utilise their on-board equipment and use PBN,” he said.
He stressed that the airlines would need to have dual autopilot because when flying at zero visibility in Category 3 ILS, it is not the pilot but the machines that do the landing and take-off.
“The pilot has to be trained so that he will be able to fly in the dark and rely on the machines. The pilot has to be trained regularly for it. This can be done with simulator training. The on-board equipment has to meet the requirement. Those are the things that have to be put in place by the airline,” he said.
Domestic airlines need to upgrade, and quickly, in order not to continue to lose out.
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