With the arrival of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at the weekend to begin the reassessment of the nationâ€™s aviation industry today, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority of Nigeria (NCAA) and other aviation agencies have expressed readiness for the audit.
FAA awarded Nigeria Category One safety status in 2010 after it was satisfied with the countryâ€™s meeting the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) standards. The body has however, decided to re-audit Nigeria in response to critical media reports about the sector.
The International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) is a programme established by the FAA with the purpose to ensure that all aircraft operators registered outside United States that operate to or from the US are properly licensed and are subject to safety oversight provided by a competent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards.
The objective of the assessment is to ensure that Nigeria still maintains the safety standard in air transport which enabled US to award Nigeria the certification.
The benefits of the FAA Category One Safety Status is that the Nigerian aviation sector has been accorded a high rating in the global aviation industry, with Nigerian airlines having easy access to credit facility from international financiers, as well as insurance premium for Nigerian registered aircraft becoming relatively low.
The FAA certification has also improved the volume of traffic into the country, with the influx of scheduled commercial airlines operating into the country, which has made it the regional hub for West Africa. There has also been business and cultural exchange in the region and it enabled Nigerian registered aircraft to fly directly to the United States of America.
Although the assessment will concentrate on the processes and documentations of the regulatory body, NCAA, its objective is to assess the whole aviation sector. What the team wants to see is that if NCAA has kept to the recommended standards. However, if there is a breach, the body would be given 60 days to close the open items, which if not kept might attract a withdrawal of the status.
Since 2010 Nigeria has significantly improved the sector, providing safety critical equipment and projects and also strengthened its regulation of air operation in the country.
Spokesman of the aviation agencies, Yakubu Dati, said the Category One status was awarded to Nigeria after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit certified its airspace as air worthy.
â€œWithin the space of three years after this certification, the various parastatals under the Ministry of Aviation have attained significant milestones,â€ Dati stated.
Dati said the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has between the years 2010 and 2014 reached a new high, as the organisation is committed to making efforts to keep both passengers and the Nigerian public safe at the airports.
â€œFAAN is fully compliant with ICAO standards for firefighting and rescue operations. Before July 2011, there were only 20 fire tenders available, but now, FAAN has 46 fire tenders. In addition, 450 brand new kits, (equipment as well as personal protective clothing) have been provided for all firemen and women. This has been done to enable firemen efficiently carry-out their duties in securing and safe-guarding the airport terminals, staff and passengers,â€ he said.
Dati noted that the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), through the new Air Traffic Management system deployed under the TRACON project, has greatly improved the safety of the Nigerian airspace exponentially.
â€œThe TRACON project has been completed with approach radar control in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port-Harcourt. Area Radar commenced in Lagos and Kano area control and this has significantly increased airspace capacity for the Nigerian aviation industry.â€
He said TRACON has significantly improved safety in the sector in addition to the deployment of control tower solar power for navigational aids which was unavailable for a long time and now Nigeria has six navigational aids and 11 control towers to its credit.
Dati disclosed that NCAA recorded major achievements after the Category One certification in 2010 and one of these achievements is the deployment of flight tracking system, Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS) which was unavailable in the country before the FAA certification.
â€œAnother pertinent milestone is the IOSA certification and interlining which had never been done in Nigeria. Two local airlines have been successfully certified under this programme and the exercise is currently on going. With the restructuring of the NCAA, Nigeria will have an affective, proactive aviation safety regulator similar to what is found in any advanced countries of the world,â€ he also said.
He remarked that the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau (AIPB) have recorded various achievements that have enhanced aviation safety and security in Nigeriaâ€™s aviation industry since the country attained the Category One status.
Some of these achievements, he said, include the AIPB now being able to download, extract, decode and analyse the aircraft accident data from the CVR and FDR (Black Boxes) thus saving time and money for the country.