Viewpoint

May 23, 2024

Safe skies: Addressing Nigeria’s aviation challenges with global insights 

Foreign airlines’ funds blocked in Nigeria hit $743.7m - IATA

By BISOLA ATIE

IN recent times, the aviation sector has been grappling with series of significant challenges, raising serious concerns about the safety protocols and standards within the industry. The incidents involving Boeing aircraft, which have not only garnered global attention but also underscored the urgent need for enhanced safety measures, are particularly alarming. As an aviation professional, it is crucial to delve into these occurrences and propose tailored solutions to address these issues within the Nigerian airspace. 

This article serves as a call to action, informing the Nigerian aviation stakeholders and the Ministry of the vital steps required to alleviate these concerns and urgently elevate our aviation safety standards to an exemplary level.

The incidents that have come to light, such as a United Airlines Boeing 737-800 flight losing an external panel, a LATAM Airlines Boeing 787 experiencing a sudden altitude drop, and other Boeing aircraft facing engine fires and emergency landings, serve as stark reminders of the inherent risks in aviation that demand rigorous oversight and proactive safety measures. Each occurrence underscores different facets of the aviation safety spectrum, from the integrity of aircraft components to the crew’s preparedness in managing in-flight emergencies.

Addressing these challenges within the Nigerian airspace requires a paramount, multifaceted approach. Firstly, implementing rigorous inspection and maintenance protocols is non-negotiable. With their intricate systems and components, aircraft demand meticulous attention to ensure optimal functioning. The incident with the United Airlines Boeing 737-800 flight that successfully touched down at Medford Airport in Oregon, despite missing a panel, is a stark reminder of the potential consequences of overlooking seemingly minor components. In Nigeria, enhancing our inspection and maintenance protocols involves adopting international best practices and equipping our aviation technicians and engineers with the latest training and tools to effectively perform their duties in collaboration with private and government establishments.

Moreover, the LATAM Airlines flight incident, travelling from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand, highlights the crucial need for advanced training and simulation for flight crews. This need is particularly relevant for the Nigerian aviation sector, where diverse operational conditions, ranging from weather to technological challenges, necessitate a well-prepared crew. Implementing state-of-the-art simulation training that mirrors real-life scenarios will equip our pilots and cabin crew with the competence to navigate unforeseen challenges, ensuring passenger and crew safety under all circumstances.

Investing in modern aircraft technologies represents another critical strategy. As the incidents involving older Boeing models suggest, technological vulnerabilities can pose significant risks. For Nigeria, this implies a strategic shift towards acquiring newer aircraft with advanced safety features and redundancy systems. Such investment enhances safety and positions the Nigerian aviation sector as a modern, forward-looking industry.

Strengthening regulatory oversight and compliance is foundational to aviation safety. A robust regulatory framework, aligned with international standards, ensures that airlines and aviation service providers adhere to stringent safety protocols. 

For Nigeria, this would involve conducting rigorous audits, performing compliance checks, and fostering a culture that prioritises safety. Encouraging a safety-first mindset across all levels of operations can significantly contribute to minimizing risks.

Lastly, active collaboration with aircraft manufacturers is essential. By engaging in constructive dialogue and participating in safety forums and working groups, Nigeria can proactively address safety concerns, share knowledge, and adopt industry best practices. This collaborative approach not only aids in immediate safety improvements but also contributes to long-term advancements in aviation safety.

The recent challenges faced by Boeing aircraft globally serve as a critical reminder of the continuous need for improvement in aviation safety. Adopting a comprehensive and proactive approach to safety, encompassing rigorous maintenance protocols, advanced crew training, investment in modern technologies, enhanced regulatory oversight, and collaboration with manufacturers, is essential for the Nigerian airspace.

The Nigerian Aviation Ministry, as the key player in this process, can significantly improve the safety and reliability of our aviation sector. By implementing the proposed solutions, the Ministry can ensure the well-being of passengers and crew, enhance the reputation of the Nigerian aviation sector, and set a benchmark for global aviation safety standards. These measures will mitigate risks and foster a culture of safety and excellence in our aviation industry.

*Yejide Atie, an  aviation expert, wrote from Abuja