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Air traffic controllers cry out over deplorable towers, radio communication

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Kaduna airport<br />

Air traffic Controllers (ATCs) have cried out over the deplorable state of control towers and poor radio communication at several airports in the country.

The critical workforce, at a recent stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos, said the perennial problems are risky to safe flight operations.

Most disturbing are the control towers at airports in Kaduna, Maiduguri, Ilorin, Yola, Sokoto, Benin, and Katsina.

President Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA), Abayomi Agoro, said the towers had been in sorry state for long, but instead of getting better, they are getting worse.

Agoro observed that the case of Abuja Tower Elevator, which fell-off, “is a sore point in Nigeria’s aviation industry.”

“Even more worrisome is its health hazard to ATCs, who go through agony climbing 232 flights of stairs on a daily basis,” Agoro said.

He added that poor communication in commercial flight operations, between the pilot in the cockpit, and controllers in the tower, poses grim consequences and better unimagined than experienced.

“The present Controller-Pilot VHF Communication coverage of Nigeria’s airspace is a far cry from the required international standard, but it is still work in progress with the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). Over the years, it has been quite herculean for Air Traffic Controllers to communicate effectively with pilots.”

Agoro noted that the appalling condition might, however, not be unconnected with NAMA’s consistent loss of revenue, due to low patronage by foreign aircraft and outstanding by some local operators.

The Guardian learnt that private airports and terminal managers, including the Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2), Lagos, are indebted to the agency in excess of N3 billion.

Managing Director of NAMA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, said there is no denying the challenges of radio communication over the Nigerian airspace, despite efforts at improving the quality.

Akinkuotu said part of NAMA’s job is provision of effective communication, the agency is yet to achieve that 100 per cent but unrelenting in the task.

He said: “I’ve spent two years in NAMA, and I thought I would have fixed this problem but I haven’t. Effort is being made and we are not going to stop because any air traffic communication that is not crisp clear is a recipe for confusion.

“In the South east, a lot of pilots have had to step on each other and ATCs because of poor communication and if you are foreign to the clime, that may make you categorise our airspace as unsafe. But, we are not stopping and that explains why we are always asking for feedbacks,” Akinkuotu said.


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