The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, said airport authorities have commenced upgrading of existing facilities including the deployment of new communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management systems.

The upgrade is to enhance capacity, safety, efficiency and economy of flight operations, NAMA’s Acting Managing Director, Emma Anasi, said in a statement.

Mr. Anasi expressed concern over challenges faced by airlines and passengers in the past few days, due to reduced flight visibility at the airports.

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He said the present weather condition was caused by the prevailing harmattan dust haze, which had limited operations into most airports.

According to him, the agency is not unmindful of the economic losses to airlines, passengers and other airport stakeholders.

He, however, said that the primary responsibility of NAMA was to ensure the safety of lives and properties.

“Our primary responsibility is to ensure that all flight operations are in compliance with minimum state weather conditions, as published by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for each airport.

“It is important to emphasise that NAMA had earlier taken appropriate measures, to ensure the availability and reliability of air navigation facilities at all airports,” he said.

Mr. Anasi said that while the current severe weather conditions were expected to improve within a few days, NAMA, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transportation, had embarked on the upgrade of existing facilities.

The NAMA chief sympathised with all Nigerians who had suffered losses or inconveniences as a result of flight delays and cancellations.

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Earlier on Wednesday, the Airline Operators of Nigeria, decried the deplorable state of navigational aids at airports around the country .

The Chairman of AON, Nogie Meggisson, said the situation had made flying in the Nigerian airspace difficult during the harmattan, thereby leading to flight cancellations.

According to him, this has increased the sufferings of passengers and disrupted their plans for the festive season.

“Most international and local flights had to be diverted to Cotonou yesterday, which is rather unfortunate,” he said.

“The issue of the harmattan haze is a yearly seasonal occurrence as Nigeria has mainly Rainy (Thunderstorms) and Dry Seasons (Harmattan).

“If the world has been landing in zero or virtually no visibility since December 28, 1968; today 48 years later, Nigeria still can’t land with 800 metres of visibility?

“Why are the Navigation aids not working or upgraded over the years? Why is there no solution to this issue after 40 years of the airlines crying out?

“It is rather shameful that today in the 21st Century, we are still talking of operating at CAT l and unable to land at 800m at our airports.”

According to him, since Monday, the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos was shut down until 6pm before flights could land.

He said that consequently, no airline could fly and passengers were delayed with colossal loss of revenue to the operators.

“A Dana Air flight that departed Abuja at 10am could not land in Lagos and had to return to Abuja until 6pm before flying back again still leaving about 500 to 600 passengers to various destinations stranded at the airport.

“This is very unfair to operators who cannot charge passengers for the extra cost the airline has to bear on return or cancelled flights and we have to feed and lodge them in a hotel,” Mr. Meggisson said.

He charged the NAMA and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to ensure that the airports are equipped with the right landing aids to allow 24hours operations in any weather condition

Mr. Meggisson said that the AON had been expressing concern about the appalling situation for a long time because of its economic impact on them.

“50 per cent of scheduled flights are delayed due to weather, shortage of Jet fuel, inadequate screening machines at the Terminal Boarding exit points, insufficient parking for airplanes on the tarmac, as well as VIP movement etc.

“How then can we make money to pay the high taxes and levies being imposed by the agencies and parastatals or contribute our quota to the National Gross Domestic Product this way?

“What we need is simple solutions. Get better equipment. If we had CAT lll equipment at our airports, the airlines will fly.

“The relevant agencies need to invest in modern navigation aids and runway lights so that we don’t have to come back again next year complaining about the same thing as we have done for so many decades.”

SOURCE: Premium Times