November 8, 2010

Arik Air boosts safety with operation control centre.

Kenneth Ehigiator
Arik Air has taken a step further to guarantee safety of its flights by installing a multi-million Dollar operations control centre at its head office at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.

The airline thus becomes the second in the world, after Dubai-based Emirates Airlines, to install the equipment that would enable it track its aircraft in the airspace anywhere in the world.

Beside tracking aircraft movement in the airspace, facilities in the centre would also assist the airline to get real time, accurate weather forecast, without relying on Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET, for same.\

Arik’s new Managing Director, Mr. Chris Ndulue, said the investments in the control centre form part of the over N900 billion the airline had so far put in its operations since it came into existence four years ago.

According to him, other expenditures came in the form of aircraft acquisition, which gulped $6.1 billion; $2 million on training of cadet pilots at Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT, Zaria; N1 billion on staff training, including pilots’ simulation training and $4 million on explosive and narcotics’ detection equipment.

He said equipment at the control centre would assist the airline reel out realtime, accurate weather forecasts, thereby de-emphasising its reliance from Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET.

Ndulue said the airline currently has a fleet of 26 short, medium and long-range aircraft, serving all the domestic routes in Nigeria, six regional routes and three international routes, including London, Johannesburg and New York.
He said the airline had not done badly at all in its four years of existence, adding that it currently has 40 percent stake in the nation’s aviation sector.

Ndulue, however, lamented that in as much as the airline had plans to expand its operations, infrastructure limitations in Lagos and Abuja, its two main hubs, might prevent that from happening.

According to him, this is one major challenge Arik Air is facing in its efforts to spread its tentacles further and create more job opportunities for Nigerians.

“We have come to a point where it is difficult for us to expand further in Nigeria because of infrastructural problems.  Now, we are looking at Western and Central Africa for expansion,” he lamented.

He said the domestic terminals in both Lagos and Abuja Airports had become too small for the airline’s operations, regretting that request made of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, to build its own terminals had yielded no response.

The terminals, he added, would be built by Arik, but owned by the federal government, which should take over ownership after the airline had recouped its investments on it.

Ndulue said though Arik Air had taken leadership of the aviation market in Nigeria and West Africa,
its ultimate objective was to compete with other airlines anywhere in the world.

On the Operation Control Centre, He said airline invested in it because of its desire to ensure safety of its passengers and equipment.

With the equipment, the airline could track any of its aircraft wherever it is in the airspace, especially with regards to getting realtime, accurate weather reports.

Udulue said that with the control centre, Arik no longer relied on the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET, for weather forecasts, stressing whenever the airline delayed or cancelled flights, its decisions were based on forecast generated by the centre.

Ndulue, who noted that the airline was eyeing Abuja-Kano-Jeddah route, said the airline had concluded plans to start operations on Lagos-Houston route during the second quarter of next year.

Chairman of the airline, Engr. Joseph Ikhide Arumei-Ikhide, said Arik Air would continue to invest in the country’s aviation sector to bring it at par with others anywhere in the world.

“We have no other country we can call out own but Nigeria.  Therefore, whatever it will take us to make the industry the best in Africa and one of the best in the world we will do,” he said.

He urged the airline’s passengers to be patient with it whenever flights were delayed, stressing that flight delays were occasioned by warnings about weather situation obtain from its operations control centre.

“It is better for there to be flight delays than risk flying into bad weather,” said Arumemi-Ikhide, who noted that the airline’s focus was now being put on developing capacity to play effectively in the global arena.
According to him, “Arik has the capabilities to compete effectively with major airlines of the world.”