Thursday April 16,
2015, has entered the record book of the Aviation Industry in Nigeria, when Air Traffic Controllers, under the aegis of National Air Traffic Controllers Association of Nigeria (NATCA) made good their threat to paralyse flight operations if management failed to address their concerns when they embarked on a six –hour warning strike.
The Air Traffic Controllers’ reason for the strike was hinged on alleged poor air navigation equipment and inadequate welfare package for staff.
The workers achieved the purpose for which the strike was called by registering their displeasure and to allow the public appreciate their grievances. The strike, while it lasted caused flight delays prompting some airlines to cancel their flights to some destinations.
The management of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) under whose domain the issues were located sent senior officials to the towers to control flight movement to curb the adverse effect of the strike.
Recall that the air controllers had threatened to go on strike about three times in this year. According to sources, the warning strike was a prelude to indefinite industrial action scheduled to begin April 20, 2015.
In a statement made available to the press, and signed by the General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr Olajumoke Adetona, NAMA said it had been consulting with the air traffic controllers and that the agency has approved the controllers’ demands.
On their part, the National President of NATCA, Mr Victor Egaru, said that the management of NAMA approved all their demands but the Minister ofAviation, Chief Osita Chidoka, lacked the polticial will to implement the demands.
The strike action which started in the morning of April 16, throughout the country lasted for six-hours and by 1.00pm, the situation had returned to normal as the controllers resumed work, but the airlines had a hard time coordinating their flight operations and therefore had to reschedule or cancel flights.
A source said the management has commenced discussions with members of the NATCA on how to resolve the issues affecting welfare and work equipment, adding that the Managing Director of NAMA, Ibrahim Abdulsalam, was in Abuja to meet relevant ministry of aviation officials on how to resolve the impending industrial action by air traffic controllers.
Similarly, members of the National Association of Air Traffic Engineers (NAATE) have equally decried the absence of space parts for equipment across airports in the country.
Speaking at the 33rd NAATE day celebrations in Lagos, the National President of NAATE, Ebenezer Makanjuola, explained that the lack of spare parts has negatively affected the performance of equipment in all the airports.
“Our greatest challenge today is spare parts, spare parts for our navigational and communication equipment, we are facing this problem today because of the lacuna in the system and government is aware of it,” said Makanjuola.
Last year at its annual general meeting in Kano, members of NATCA, in a communiqué, complained of epileptic air navigation equipment at airports nationwide, even as they equally complained of intolerable working condition.
The association urged the government to call to order, some principal officers of NAMA who they allege were hell bent on destroying the agency by working against the air traffic control which represents the primary function and major sustenance of the agency.
According to NATCA, since the NAMA management has decided to disregard the agreement, it willingly signed with NATCA/ATSSAN on January 18, 2015 and owing to the fact that the time agreed elapsed on March 1, the ATCs in NAMA has no option than to commence strike to attract the attention of stakeholders.
In the statement, the association said, “it is against the background of no action plan and political will to implement the agreements earlier reached with our association and others that the corresponding action by air traffic controllers in Nigeria took place.
“The action will last six hours only as a warning sign but is in preparation for a major and total industrial action which shall commence on April 20, if relevant government bodies continue to treat air traffic controllers’ issues with levity and neglect. Already tempers are high but industrial peace and harmony must be the concern of everybody”.
In the same vein, last year, the association also complained about epileptic and alarming failure of air navigation equipment, which has increased the work load of both air traffic controllers and pilots.
According to a statement signed and issued by the president and general secretary of NATCA, Mr Victor Egaru and Olawode Banjo respectively, the association said it is disheartening that in the last two months, the Communication, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) equipment has been epileptic.
“Presently, the Instrument Landing System (ILS) serving the Lagos Runway 18R has been unserviceable for close to three months, while the one serving the Second Runway 18L has been epileptic for more than one month.
Furthermore, they said that the distance measuring equipment located with the VOR in Lagos has been out of service for a long time. Equipment in many airports including communication facilities suffer the same fate.
They argued that at NAMA headquarters and at station levels provision of operational vehicles for ATC operations, including runway inspection which required dedicated and specialized vehicles, has been unattended to by air navigation service providers.
The ATCs explained that some employees in the agency have spent so much time and energy they would have expended in making facilities function optimally to feed the public with falsehoods as to the semi-ability of the CNS/ATM equipment to cover their ineptitude.
The statement said, “we can however say categorically that it is either the personnel responsible for the equipment are incompetent or the incessant failures are as a result of acts of sabotage on their part”.
They recalled what would have been an incident involving a presidential jet on February 18, this year when on a final approach to land, the glide scope of the runway 18L in Lagos went off owing to its epileptic nature since January 30, 2015.
The association said despite all these failures in equipment, the controllers still worked daily under difficult conditions to keep the airspace safe.
Nigeria Saves $500,000 From Calibration Aircraft – Minister
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has said that Nigeria will be saving a lot of money from the acquisition of a custom made calibration aircraft recently acquired by the Federal Government.
Sirika who disclosed this while speaking to aviation correspondents in Abuja, Tuesday, said the purpose of the aircraft was to calibrate navigational equipment and aid the country for the purpose of flight operations.
The aircraft which is worth about $8.5 million, according to the minister, will be commercialised to generate revenue, and keep the industry safe.
“We used to have one in Nigeria, but for the last two decades, we never had any. What propelled us to procure this aircraft was that while we were reconstructing the Abuja runway, we needed to recalibrate all those landing aids. That is the standard requirement and this is to ensure they are working in perfect order.
“The last time Nigeria had such aircraft was 20 years ago under cover aviation flying unit. We did not have the capacity as a country, the only people close to us that had is ASECNA which is owned by French speaking countries, but the aircraft is domiciled in Niger.
“We approached them but they did not have a slot for us. If I hadn’t got the support of far away South Africa, we would not beat the six weeks deadline.
“Nigeria will be saving a lot of money by procuring this aircraft. I know I paid about $500,000 when our equipment was due to South African contractor to carry out the task.
“ If you say every six months, we will do this, and that would be half a million dollars every six months. So when we do it sixteen times, the value of the aircraft would have been paid. Not only that, we will commercialise it to generate revenue and keep our industry safe “, Sirika said.
The minister, however, explained that it took about nine months from when the request was made to the completion and installation of the equipment.
The Tide reports that the aircraft was built in Textron Aviation Services, Kansas in the United States, and it is expected to improve safety in the aviation industry.
PH Airport Manager Seeks Safety Awareness, Education At Airports
The Safety Manager, Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Mr Oguche Samuel, has harped on the need for continuous awareness and education on safety at the nation’s airports.
He said the continuous safety education would create awareness to staff and stakeholders at the airports on their safety responsibilities.
Samuel disclosed this while addressing participants at the safety promotion day at the airport which focused on Foreign Object Deris (FOD),
He urged participants and staff to be good safety ambassadors in their day to day activities, stressing that safety is one of the core values of FAAN.
Meanwhile, the management of the Port Harcourt International Airport has keyed into the Airport Emergency Plan programme as plans are in full gear towards the certification of the airport.
The Tide reliably learnt that the management of the airport recently took steps in training staff in relevant departments on emergency plan.
Instructors from Accra in Ghana, it was gathered, were invited to train some of the staff of the airport in the later part of last year.
The training was aimed at developing staff capacity to effectively and efficiently handle emergency response with the certification of the airport.
FAAN Moves To Check Security Threats At Airside
Following reported cases of intrusion into airside at the nation’s airports, particularly at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at nights, the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu has taken steps to install thermal and infrared cameras for airside monitoring and patrol.
The introduction of thermal and infrared cameras is meant to monitor and expose happenings or any intruder who manages to gain access to airports, especially at nights.
FAAN, in a press statement on Tuesday, said it took the steps because anything that happens at the airside, has a ripple effect on the aviation industry.
“We are mostly particular about the airside because at the end of the day, security and safety are paramount and anything that happens at the airside has a ripple effect and we are here to ensure that our airports are safe.
FAAN posited that it is a dangerous practice to go and open aircraft cargo door because of the engine blast which might occur on the process.
“The proximity switch and the plunder could vibrate when the engine level is moved above idle running; for some seconds, the light may flash and warning light will remain off. It is even an easy thing to open the cargo door while the engine is running.
“Rotation of the handle activates a torque tube to withdraw the latch rollers from the latch fitting and as the door swings on board under tension of the door balance mechanism, the door warning proximity switch is activated to energize the appropriate door warning in the control cabin to alert the Crewe”, FAAN stated.
Enumerating other efforts being made to tackle the problem, FAAN explained that the Authority has put patrol vans fitted with cameras on the dashboard to capture the environment during patrol, saying although this might be a temporary measure.
Our correspondent reports that there were reports of incidents of intruders allegedly opening the cargo compartment of aircraft either taxing or holding on the runway, particularly at the Lagos airport, which had become a cause of concern to FAAN management.
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