In ensuring safety on the runways, experts in safety want agencies in the industry to collaborate and imbibe the culture of sharing of information.
This was part of the resolution at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport 2018 Runway Safety Week held in Lagos last week, with the theme: Low Visibility Operations on the Airside, Importance and Consequences.
The Chief Executive Officer, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Engr. Saleh Dunoma while declaring the week open, stressed that on a regular basis, runway facilities were maintained and upgraded, adding that officers in charge of these facilities were also trained to deliver safety.
Mrs. Victoria Shinaba Aba who represented Engr. Dunoma, stressed that the agency was a sticker to international standards and operating procedures and urged all stakeholders to buy in, to sustain the zero accident currently being enjoyed in the industry.
As the harmattan season is approaching, characterized by low visibility due to dust haze, fog and mist, the experts advised that to minimize flight disruptions during the period, navigational aids, runway markings, airfield lightning must be calibrated to ensure they are working optimally and safe flights on the airside.
In his presentation, the Director General of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Muhtar Usman represented at the event by the General Manager, Navigation Services, Mr. Mathew Pwajok said the Ministers of States of the African and Indian Ocean Region, in July 2012 in Abuja under the Ministerial conference and looked at safety critical issues and established what was now known globally as the Abuja Declaration of safety targets.
He said noted that, “and very key among these targets is runway safety. Most accidents that are fatal are either on landing or takeoff, either as runway incursion, excursion and confusion”.
According to the NCAA helmsman, there were also concerns otherwise known as significant safety concerns that African region also had, and these had to do with, “deficiencies in air navigation infrastructure. It also has to do with effective implementation of safety oversight.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Capt. Fola Akinkuotu represented by the General Manager, Technical Evaluation in the Agency, Mr. Bola Ahmed emphasized that NAMA had put several measures in place for the safety of every flights in the airspace and on the ground.
He observed that between 2015 and 2016, the then management of NAMA started working on how to reduce disruption of flight operations during the period of low visibility which was encountered between the months of November and February with the advent of harmattan.
“This period of the year is characterized by a drastic reduction in visibility sometimes to as low as between 350-450 meters. Before the current review, the minima used to be 800 meters ILS operations and the minimum 1,200 meters for a VOR operation even at the best of times.”
According to the NAMA boss, this has ripple effects on the quantity and amount of revenue they would have been able to collect, adding that there would be reduction in revenue generation with other attendant implications.
He added that, “NAMA management has put in place, a think tank, a thinking team to see the possibility of not only employing artificial intelligence if possible, but equally seeing the possibility of using intelligent assistance so that we can see how we could minimize the effect of weather, the effect of low visibility on our operations”.
Earlier in her address of welcome, the Team Leader of the MMIA Lagos Runway Safety Team (LRST), Mrs. Ngozi Njoku said the week was to create awareness, a very clear statement that irrespective of one’s duty and job specification, all must embrace safety culture. As the saying goes, safety in aviation is every body’s business”.
She noted that the theme for this year was to sensitize all aviation stakeholders on safety operation as the harmattan period approaches.
“We all know there has always been a beneficial partnership, sensitization and enlightenment for all aviation stakeholders in order to create safety awareness for all,” she said.
Mrs. Njoku explained that the primary role of the runway safety team was to develop an action plan for Runway Safety, advise the management as appropriate on potential runway safety issues and recommend strategies for hazard removal and mitigation of the residual risk.
Present at the event were some members of the runway safety team from other international airports who came to understudy that of Lagos, officers of the customs service, police, ground handling companies, among others.