By By Kenneth Ehigiator
Nigeriaâ€™s entire airspace would be completely covered by radar next month, Managing Director of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Engr. Ibrahim Auyo, has said.
The covering of the airspace, which is known as Total Coverage of the Airspace of Nigeria (TRACON), started in 2003, but was halted midway due to shortage of funds.
TRACON was conceived by the federal government to ensure that the nationâ€™s airspace is totally covered, with a view to detecting every unfriendly object in the airspace and raise the revenue profile of NAMA.
But speaking in an interaction with newsmen last weekend, Engr. Auyo said the installation process of the project had been completed in all four main centres, including Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, as well as the satellites sites in Maiduguri, Ilorin, Yola, Bid and Talata Mafara, adding that what was left was for the equipment to be calibrated.
According to him, the calibration of the facilities at the radar centres is to ascertain their effectiveness . â€œEverything about TRACON is completed, what we are waiting for is the calibration of all the sites to be fully integrated in June 2010.Â I can assure you that by June, everything about TRACON will be completed.
â€œAt present, our directorate is working with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on the procedures for the radar system,â€ said Engr. Auyo.
Calibration in aviation parlance is the flight-checking of navigational facilities to ensure they give accurate information to either air traffic controllers or pilots.
He said the new radar system would also help to increase safety level in the airspace and make the job of air traffic controllers much easier and seamless.
The NAMA boss also said by October 2010, NAMA would have completed full VHF radio coverage of the airspace to nip in the bud the communication problems often encountered by pilots during flight.
According to him, the installation of the equipment will help to eliminate the problem of black spots in the airspace, which over the years made communication between pilots and ATCs in some parts of the country difficult, if not impossible.
Engr. Auyo said further that NAMA was navigating Nigeria towards use of the World Geodetic Survey (WGS) 84, which would assist greatly in aircraft separation. Auyo, who noted that the system had been in use in America and Europe since 1985, said by 2011, it would have taken off in the country.
He spoke of plans to migrate the country from terrestial to satellite-based navigation in 2015, adding that the latter was more efficient and cost-effective for NAMA, especially against the backdrop of the energy crisis in the country.
He said while the terrestial navigation system relied on power generators and ground-based equipment to function, in case of blackout, the satellite-based system required no generators, stressing that NAMA had up to September this year, spent about N200 million on diesel to power its generators for navigational equipment to function.
On debts owed NAMA by domestic airlines in the country, Engr. Auyo said the situation was making it difficult for the agency to maintain its facilities across the country for maximum effectiveness.
He said NAMA would have found it intractable to have funds to maintain facilities, but for the international airline who, according to him, have been forthcoming in their financial obligations to the agency.
He said:Â â€œItâ€™s only the domestic airlines we are having problems with.Â They donâ€™t want to pay for services rendered them by us.Â Between 2001 and 2007, the airlines accumulated debts in excess of about N2 billion and over N2 billion between 2007 and 2009, bringing the debt profile to over N4 billion.
â€œHowever, we have now reached an agreement on a repayment plan, following the intervention of the Minister of Aviation.Â We hope they will start paying, else we may have no option but to withdraw our services to them.
â€œWe donâ€™t have any problems with the foreign airlines, as they pay their charges when due.Â IATA (International Air Transport Association) collects charges from the airlines on our behalf and remit same to us.Â That is why we donâ€™t have problems with them.â€
Engr. Auyo noted that Nigeria was now being given more respect in transformation of air traffic control than South Africa and Egypt in the global aviation system, adding that this was made possible by the investments put into the system by the federal government in recent times.