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Airspace agency deploys free routing to save airlines’ cost

By Wole Oyebade
17 December 2021   |   2:43 am
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has commenced the implementation of Free Routing Airspace (FRA) to enhance airspace efficiency and reduce operational cost to airlines.

The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has commenced the implementation of Free Routing Airspace (FRA) to enhance airspace efficiency and reduce operational cost to airlines.

Managing Director of NAMA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, at a stakeholders’ sensitisation forum in Lagos recently, said Nigeria earlier in October 2021, notified the global aviation community of its intent to commence the implementation of the Free Routing Airspace concept in December, 2021.

The FRA accords airspace users the opportunity to migrate from the conventional fixed Air Traffic Service (ATS) route network to flight planable direct routes between a published FRA significant boundary entry point, to a published FRA significant boundary exit point, thereby optimising airspace utilisation.

Akinkuotu noted that the journey to the implementation of the FRA in Nigeria started two years ago, following the decision and recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) AFI (African- Indian Ocean) Region that member states should develop necessary strategies towards implementation of FRA in their respective states and regions.

ICAO, in collaboration with International Air Transport Association (IATA), supported this push by developing the FRA concept of operations, conducting FRA gap analysis as well as providing guidance in the development of FRA implementation checklist.

He said: “After several meetings, workshops and co-ordination among contiguous FIRs (Flight Information Regions), the FRA concept is surely transforming from an abstract idea to concrete reality and that has been largely the Nigerian experience as the nation successfully commenced FRA implementation on December 2.

“FRA was first conceptualised about 13 years ago in Europe, being the first region in the world to have implemented a full FRA concept beginning from 2008. However, in the entire ICAO AFI Region, Nigeria is the second country, after Mauritius, to implement this global new concept.”

Akinkuotu listed the benefits of FRA to airspace users to include savings in terms of distance covered per route segment, savings in terms of time required to cover one route leg, fuel savings per route leg as well as carbon emission reduction per route segment per volume of airspace.

He enjoined airline operators to take advantage of new technologies being deployed by the agency as these would enhance their operational efficiency. He recalled that in the last couple of years, NAMA had deployed several next generation tools like the Performance Based Navigation (PBN) Approaches, Controller-Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC), Instrument Landing System (ILS) Category II and III, and so on, but noted that some Nigerian airlines were not taking advantage of them.

Notwithstanding, “NAMA would continue to strive to ensure that Nigeria has, not only a safe airspace, but also a profitable aviation industry,” Akinkuotu said.