FULL RADAR COVERAGE AND AIR SAFETY
As part of its efforts to ensure air safety, the Federal Government has commissioned the full radar coverage of the nation's airspace. The new radar facility was recently inaugurated in Abuja by President Goodluck Jonathan.
This feat, coming on the heels of the country's attainment of the United States (U.S.) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) certification, known as Category 1, is commendable. Nigeria must make full use of the new facility and ensure that the Category 1 status is sustained.
We say this because some countries that achieved the status in the past lost it when their safety standards dropped.
While commissioning the project, President Jonathan said that the coverage would enhance the country's civil and military surveillance of aircraft operations in the nation's airspace.
He also explained that the facility will work by intercepting signals from moving aircraft, which would be relayed to air traffic controllers for the tracking of such aircraft. The coverage includes integrated aircraft billing systems, voice communication systems display consoles, very high frequency transceivers, voice recording systems and fibre optics.
The new radar facility known also as the Total Radar Coverage of the Nigerian Airspace Project (TRACON) covers all the four international airports - Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, with relay stations in Ilorin, Obubra, Numan, Talata Marafa and Maiduguri. All of these have a combined coverage of 315 nautical miles.
The contract for TRACON was awarded seven years ago by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to ensure safety in the nation's airspace. The contract, which was awarded in 2003 to ATM Thales of France at the initial cost of 66,500,870 million Euros, with completion period of three years, was delayed due to many factors.
Commenting on the project, the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, said the inauguration of the new facility has brought Nigeria into global reckoning being the third country in Africa after South Africa and Egypt, to do so. We hope that the new equipment will meet the safety challenges in our airspace.
It is, indeed, gratifying that this project has finally been concluded several years after it commenced. We salute the present administration for seeing it through. It is a good demonstration of continuity in government. We expect more of this in the handling of projects initiated by preceding administrations at all levels of governance in the country.
The present practice whereby such are abandoned by succeeding administrations does not make sense.
To ensure the effectiveness of the new equipment, it is paramount that it is adequately and regularly maintained. This advice has become necessary considering our poor maintenance culture. There is also the need to train the right calibre of personnel to efficiently manage it. This is something that must not be overlooked.
The manpower needs of the aviation industry cannot be overemphasized. This is more so following the recent revelation by aviation experts that 70 percent of air accidents are traceable to human error. We suggest that competent Nigerians should be trained to man the radar. Where there is deficiency of local manpower, our nationals should understudy foreigners engaged to do the job.
Besides, government should put in place other gadgets to improve security at our airports. It is worrisome that some checking-in scanners at some of the airports are not functioning. Relying on manual checking of passengers and their baggage has obvious limitations.
Though, the TRACON project came late, it is better late than never. It is unfortunate that until now, we did not have such critical modern aviation equipment in place. Now that the TRACON is on stream, let it work at optimum level. There should be no more room for lapses in radar coverage of the country.