How time flies, it is time again for Nigeria to defend her category 1 status in the global world of aviation safety. Three years ago, precisely in August 2014 the country much coveted category 1 status was renewed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO after an audit of the worthiness of her airspace.
A team of official from the United States Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) has arrived Nigeria to carry out an audit on the country’s aviation again in order to re-certify the country for the prestigious US Category 1 Status.
The Category 1 Safety Status enabled Nigerian airlines to fly to the US and for the country’s registered commercial aircraft to fly to Nigeria and it was after the certification was obtained by Nigeria that United Airlines, Delta Air Lines started flying to Nigeria and Arik Air started flying to US destinations with Nigerian registered aircraft.
FAA Category 1 Safety Status is important in the air transport section because other international carriers and aviation institutions use it along with the International Civil Aviation Organization ( ICAO) certificate to take decisions on the safety status of every country on airline operation.
Experts however, belief the US team decided to visit the country earlier than the actual time due to frequent negative reports of the industry portrayed by the media.
But rather than conferring any privileges or special status on the country, the visit of the US team mean that Nigeria may actually be under the very glare of the global aviation safety watchdog again.
Nonetheless in the past three years, the Nigerian Aviation industry has witnessed a dramatic transformation that one can say has put the aviation agencies at ease in terms of the country’s readiness to retain her category one status. Within the space of three years, the various parastatals under the Ministry of Aviation have attained significant milestones.
These include the Federal Airports Authority, FAAN, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA; Nigerian Airspace Management Authority, NAMA; The Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau, AIPB; Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN embarked on a re-modelling programme to upgrade and repair dilapidated airport terminals scattered around the country,airport terminals have been completely re-modelled, while work is in top gear at the remaining terminals. The construction of four brand new state-of-the-art, international airport terminals in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and Port Harcourt has already gotten to an advanced stage.
Passengers safety and comfort are cardinal to the country retaining the status, apart from these which would vastly raise the level of passenger’ s comfort and cargo handling capacity at the airports, within this period of time, Nigeria has comply with ICAO standards for firefighting and rescue operations.
A key component of the Infrastructure improvement programme for the various airports is the procurement and installation of more passenger handling equipment and support systems which include luggage screening and handling conveyor systems, air conditioning, standby power systems, baggage belt systems, lifts, escalators and travelators.
NAMA has made significant progress in putting in place radar and other navigational guidance systems that addressed the gaps in the country’s air navigational coverage.
The redesigning of the airspace to be WGS-84 compliant is one of the steps taken by the country to meet ICAO’s standard and transit to performance Based Navigation (PBN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has made substantial investment in equipment to improve its aviation oversight functions. It has deployed a sophisticated flight tracking system, and an Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS) which was previously unavailable in the country.
Another pertinent milestone is the IOSA certification and interlining. More local airlines have been successfully certified under this programme and the exercise is currently on going.
The country’s Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau is now able to quickly download, extract, decode and analyse the aircraft accident data from the CVR and FDR (Black Boxes) thus saving time and money. This capacity has speed up the investigation process and upgraded our aircraft accident investigation process.
Even the once neglected aviation training school at Zaria, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT was not left out of the transformation agenda of this administration. It has been upgraded and well-equipped in order to fulfill its mandate of producing world class skilled manpower for the country’s aviation industry.
All these milestones which point the way forward for Nigerian Aviation can be attributed to the bold, imaginative and well articulated Aviation master plan which was initiated and boldly implemented in the last three years.
And based on this. Nigerians can conveniently and confidently look forward to the ongoing recertification audit for Category 1 status by ICAO. There is no doubt that we have made significant progress in the past three years which should more than earn us the coveted re-certification. And of course, the reform is far from being over.