Towards improving Nigeria’s aviation industry




Apparently worried by the risk posed to flight operations in the country by wildlife, especially birds, the Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Captain Rabiu Yadudu, recently took another bold step to confront the challenge head-on. The organisation’s previous helmsmen had appreciated the challenge and the need to effectively tackle the threat, but with the myriad of pressing operational challenges such as flyers’ processing, human security issues and infrastructure development, the problem persisted.

It is against this backdrop that a symposium was organised in Lagos recently, tagged “Reducing Wildlife Hazards at Nigerian Airports”. The symposium presented a unique event true to the proactive disposition of the FAAN management arm of Nigeria’s aviation industry.

The event which brought together relevant stakeholders in the industry sought to X-ray the impact of wildlife, especially birds on the safety of aircraft operations. To the uninitiated, the skies are wide enough for all birds to co-exist peacefully. However, to those familiar with aircraft operations, there is no amity between birds of the wildlife and the technological birds created by humans.

While aircraft has the speed, size and power to dominate biological birds, any conflict between the two has serious implications in terms of safety hazards, economic losses, human discomfort such as missed schedules, outright cancellation of flights, etc. For example, about 3.6 per cent of aviation accidents are accounted for by these unpredictable airspace competitors. This percentage of air accidents is merely represented by the reported cases. It is suspected by experts that a similar percentage of bird accidents go unreported either due to non-impact or non-detection.

In view of this scenario, the way forward is to improve safety by dispersing critical masses of this wildlife around the airports as well as upgrade capacity to capture data for both critical and non-critical incidents.

I have observed with keen interest the proactive measures to confront this peril by the FAAN authorities that incidentally have amassed practical experience on this issue. Late last year, the successful completion of the relocation project of the critical mass of birds along the flight paths at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos was a key milestone.

Based on the extended stakeholders represented at the symposium, it is expected that these recommendations will quickly gain traction and yield tremendous values to airline operators and the flying public. For instance, a single local airline lost on the average $600,000 in the last six years. If the experience by other airlines is similar, there is a lot to play for. Operational savings gained by reducing the incidents will impact the bottom line of the airline operators who can then position properly for growth.

Also, improvements in flight schedule integrity would encourage better patronage for the domestic and international flyers. Aviation safety and competence are a quietly significant consideration for international development with consequences on Foreign Direct Investment mobilisation.

From the foregoing, every little effort made to improve the aviation industry will go a long way in deepening the economy to the benefit of all. It is with this in mind that this writer has chosen to pay close attention to the goings-on in Nigeria’s aviation industry. I am only hopeful that this tempo of proactive management will be sustained by FAAN authorities, bearing in mind the rich potential of air transport in Africa’s most populous black nation.

Dan Aibangbe,

Lagos

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