…Nine years after its initial take-off, the completion of migration from Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) to Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is gathering momentum…
SEVERAL attempts by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to migrate from manual handling of flight information to aeronautical data management have remained futile. This has hampered, to a large extent, the growth of air navigation.
Besides revenue loss, the situation has made it impossible for the country to become an air traffic leader in the West African sub-region.
Some stakeholders have blamed the development on the failure of the country to migrate to the new technology in aeronautical information data management, which has earned the country a minus in the global aviation sector.
To further develop the industry, global aviation regualator, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), had a few years ago set 2015 as the deadline for states, including Nigeria, to migrate from the manual discharge of aeronautical information to data management.
Adoption of such modernity, ICAO argued, would not only save valuable man hours, but will also make the management of information by airspace agencies accurate and align with global standards.
It was against this background that Nigeria, nine years ago, started the migration through NAMA of all its AIS equipment. The project was, however, stalled due to paucity of funds.
Findings revealed that since 2016, NAMA has started the procurement of both soft and hardware components of the equipment needed to see the project through.
Part of the equipment is the essential tools needed by the airspace agency to issue flights plans to airlines, airports and other users of the airspace.
According to investigations, the airspace agency is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that the project is completed, because of the deliverables that would accrue to Nigeria.
In an interview, NAMA Managing Director, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, said the agency had taken further steps by embarking on a comprehensive competency appraisal of Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) Officers in airports across the country.
The exercise, targeted at testing the officers in areas, such as Aeronautical Charts, AIS publication and operations started from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, is expected to proceed to other airports.
Akinkuotu said: “Considering the pivotal role aeronautical information plays in safety of air navigation, and in the light of ongoing migration to AIS automation, due consideration must be given to the integrity of data being disseminated to airspace users, hence this exercise.”
Akinkuotu said NAMA places premium on building capacity through sustained training and retraining of personnel to ensure that they possess the required competencies to perform critical functions that impact on safety and for them keep pace with modern trends in the industry.
The competency check, which he said, would be periodic, is in line with Annex 15 of International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) of ICAO and is necessary “to ensure that personnel demonstrate the required competencies to handle specific critical operations”.
Akinkuotu said the desire to complete the migration was propelled by the determination of the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, whom he said, had given approval to the agency to procure the relevant equipment.
Akinkuotu said: “The Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) is one agency that has directly benefited from the minister’s wealth of experience and shrewdness in aviation business and this has shown in the level of development at the agency. Perhaps, due to the technical nature of the agency, it is on record and it has been widely reported that most of Sirika’s professional acumen have shown on the noticeable progresses taking place at NAMA. First was the minister’s understanding that NAMA desires a capable management.
With Akinkuotu’s wealth of knowledge and support from the ministry, NAMA has been able to move to the next level. The first noticeable changes are that the issue of non-provision of acceptable condition of service, lack of training and retraining of staff, lopsided promotion and appointments, unqualified personnel being appointed to technical and sensitive positions across all the parastatals have become a thing of the past.
Before Sirika, the AIS automation project, which started since 2009, has been moving at snails speed. In recent times and through the passion Sirika has for the sector, the project has picked up and the job has progressed continuously.
Confirming that the project is on course, a staff member of NAMA, Comrade James Olalekan, said: “At present, I know that the hardware equipment are being handled by the engineers and the installations are going on. With what I know in the past, they are focusing first on 11 stations as the pilot stage. After that, they will focus on another stage. Hardware equipment installation is still ongoing, until when that is completed, the indoor equipment cannot be installed.
“In our headquarters, we have some of the equipment that have been installed about two years ago. Until when these two are completed, then we will now commence on the personnel that will operate the equipment. Because there are three aspects of any project and that is the hardware equipment, the indoor equipment and the personnel. Until when the hardware equipment is completed, then the indoor would be installed and linked to the hardware equipment. The personnel, which is the third aspect, would then be trained to handle these machines effectively and correctly. That is it.’’
Olalekan hinted that if the government succeeds, it would not only boost NAMA’s work, but would also enhance Nigeria’s image.
He said when Nigeria successfully migrate from running from AIS to AIM, the country will serve as a centre for most of the West African countries which will bring more revenue for the country.
In addition, the ministry under Sirika’s watch has been very supportive in terms of facility and equipment. With such provision, NAMA has been able to impact positively on its workers and its services to airlines. Despite several challenges the agency faced in the past year, it has been able to record remarkable achievements and significant progress in certain critical areas, such as the replacement of Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) in two strategic airports, procurement of long-range radios, increase staff training, improvement in staff welfare, among others.
Sirika has applauded the agency for “diligence and astuteness”.
In a letter signed by the minister’s Assistant Director of Air Transport, Richard Pheelangwah, Sirika advised the agency to “keep up” the good job it is doing in ensuring air safety.
An AIS expert, Bashir Yunusa, said: “We are talking about the hardware and the software equipment. I know that the hardware equipment are being handled by the engineers and the installations are going on. In the past, they focused first on 11 stations as the pilot stage before they moved to another stage.
“Hardware equipment installation is still ongoing. Until when that is completed, the indoor equipment cannot be installed. In our headquarters here, we have some of the equipment that have been installed about two years ago. Until when these two are completed, then we will now commence on the personnel that will operate the equipment. Because there are three aspects of any project and that is the hardware equipment, the indoor equipment and the personnel. Until when the hardware equipment is completed, then the indoor would be installed and linked to the hardware equipment. The personnel, which is the third aspect, would then be trained to handle these machines effectively and correctly. That is it.
“If the government succeeds in this project, it will not only boost our work, it will also boost the image of Nigeria in the aviation industry under ICAO project. This is because a country that is running from AIS to AIM will serve as a centre for most or the West African countries. Most of the data will be received with ease and effectively too in other countries.
“If it is done, it will also bring more revenue for Nigeria which will also boost the economy generally. In the aspect of the personnel, it will make their jobs easier and more accurate. There are many ways of doing things with AIM.’’