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Issues of Air Safety: DG NCAA gives answers to questions

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In recent times certain issues of aircraft safety has been a subject for debate among stakeholders particularly the 5th generation mobile network called the 5G.In Nigeria, should the industry express the fears of safety experts of its interference with the instruments for aircraft safety?.

One of Arik’s aircraft was last week tempered with by an unknown person at the airside of the Lagos airport, carting away some vital components. How safe is the airport for parked aircraft?
How far with the recertification and certification of the 5 major airports in the country, Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port-Harcourt and Enugu?

Answers to these questions and more are provided in this interview with the Director General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu.

Should the industry entertain fears with the 5G?

It is not completely true that the 5G network has been suspended in the United States, rather it was just in some of the places close to a few of the airports within some radius that 5G was suspended in order to fully understand what is happening. The concern raised is about interference with aircraft that are being controlled to land. There is a critical component called radio altimeter; the spectrum by which this equipment operates is close to that of the 5G. So, they are afraid of interference from the radio altimeter and giving aircraft erroneous indication and it’s during aircraft approach landing when they are about 2,500ft or so above the ground. Usually, it is for flights that are put to land.

For us in Nigeria, we don’t have auto landing authorisation, our flights don’t do auto landing. So, for now, it is of no concern to us, but we are still monitoring the situation, see the development if there are issues that might affect us, then, we will take the necessary action.

Just last week, an aircraft belonging to Arik Air was vandalised at the airside of the Lagos Airport, how will this affect the impending ICAO Safety audit?.

For all I can say, investigations are ongoing on the incident, but I won’t say it was a vandalisation. What happen is that somebody who obviously knew where the aircraft is, somebody who knew obviously what he was doing, went to the E and E2 Compartments, walked in there and removed a component professionally without damaging anything. So, figure out that for yourself.

As far as I am concerned, it is an ongoing investigation. So, we will wait for the outcome of the investigation. It is very clear that I cannot go the very technical part of the aircraft and remove something there. I must know something about it and I am not new to the system. Whoever did that job knew what he was doing. The security agencies are investigating the issue.

Unfortunately, these issues happen everywhere. It is not the best to happen in your country, but it has already happened and we are investigating it and we will put in measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Can we say the airports are porous?

How many aircraft have been vandalised in Nigeria in the past 10 years? Let’s not use a single issue to destroy our country. This is one incident, which seems to have been done by a professional, maybe an insider. Have we had any case of people going to vandalise an aircraft in the last 10 years? This is one case and we should not use it to destroy the reputation of our industry.

It appears this was perpetuated by somebody who knew what he was doing and it was not as if somebody broke in from outside and went and vandalised an aircraft. It wasn’t vandalisation. This is a well clean job by someone who knew where to go and what to remove.

How far have you gone with the recertification of Lagos and Abuja Airports and the certification of Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu Airport?.

For certification and recertification of airports, technical inspections took place last year to reconfirm the gaps there and action plans are being developed. Once they are developed and submitted to the NCAA, we will review them and those that are okay, we will go ahead with it and for those that are not okay, we will return them with comments and what is need to be done.

Recertification of Lagos and Abuja airports is ongoing; a few issues we need to close, FAAN is working on them. Every two weeks, we do have high level meetings at the NCAA through the Department of Aerodrome and Airspace, they meet and device a mean of resolving the issues. Hopefully, we can get all our international airports certified before the audit.

Why has it been difficult to remove unserviceable aircraft at the airports despite several attempts in the past?

Even before the National Assembly made a pronouncement on unserviceable aircraft, we have made attempts to remove them, but unfortunately, a lot of them have court cases and there is a kind of restriction on FAAN. So, it is a difficult situation, but we are having a meeting sometime next week to discuss this and see what we can do.

There are so many implications for these aircraft; it is congesting the ramp and to me, it has safety implications. It can have security implication and it denies the growth of the industry. Unused aircraft are parked and taking space where new and serviceable aircraft can take. So, it’s a very grave concern. We have discussed with FAAN even before the National Assembly talked on it. Court cases can sometimes tie your hands because if you go and do something, the court will fine you contempt of court.

Any comment on the police chopper accident?

The only thing I can say is that the AIB-N, which is a very competent and credible organisation is investigating the accident. Whatever I tell you now or whatever the police say now, to me, it’s a mere speculation. Let’s wait for the report from AIB-N who are up to the task and competent at doing the job.
Sometimes, they have even told us (NCAA) that we contributed to the gaps in the industry. To me, I see it as a very good development. If they see a gap with us and they are telling us to fix our home, I will take it like that. I am sure AIB-N will do a very good investigation and when they share their report with us, we will sit do with them and still will look at what we can do to improve the system.

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