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NCAA hinges zero-accident on improved surveillance, compliances, others

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Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has attributed another zero-accident year just recorded in 2017 to improved regulatory activities and compliance in the sector.
 
The apex regulatory body said massive improvement in enforcement, surveillance, inspection, coupled with adherence to rules and sanctions of violators have culminated in making the airspace safer and attendant zero-accident in two years on a bounce.
 
The achievement in general safety standard is key to improving investors’ confidence and insurers’ assessment of the industry that had lately earned a place among high-risk aviation countries in the world.
 
Meanwhile, aviation security consultant, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd) has said it is not yet time to celebrate safer sky, especially at a time the industry is shrinking, with lesser number of travels by air.
 
General Manager Public Relations at the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, told The Guardian that it was another great year in the aviation sector, made possible by a lot of positive factors and past investments yielding dividends in the area of safety.
 
Adurogboye said a lot of landmark strategies had lately been introduced, such that global aviation bodies like the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had adopted for implementation among members countries.
 
He said: “It means that we are not lagging behind at all. Specifically, what is working for us is enforcement and compliance to safety regulations. Second is our surveillance; monitoring of operators with our inspectors going to them regularly. We had to strengthen our inspectorate division also to make sure all necessary inspections are carried out. In the process, we have been able to track some violations, either minor or big. 
 
“Of course, we have amended our regulations to be in tune with the current dispensation and that we have already done twice. The major work is capital intensive, requiring time and resources in bringing expertise and stakeholders from around the world. 
 
“Again, the training of our officers, to be in tune with the current trends in the industry and be able to regulate effectively. Those are the key things that we had been done and have been helpful in preventing accidents on our side.
   
“It is good that we are able to achieve this feat. We were about six years of no accident before Dana Air plane crash. If not, we would have been talking about eight years plus now. All the same, we have done well and the challenge is working harder to sustain it. There are countries like Canada that we are looking up to that have had 30 to 40 years without accident. That is the record we are working towards.”
 
Adurogboye, however, denied that the industry is shrinking. He said, actually, aircraft and passenger movement had steadily increased in the last couple of years, with more operations of private jets and cargo operations improving the traffic.
 
“It will be wrong to assume that flight activities have reduced based on the number of scheduled flight and airlines in operation. It does not mean that the number of the travelling public has reduced. Our facts are there. There are other airlines. 
 
“Private jets are over 70 in number. The private cargo operators are more than 34 companies with different level of aircraft in their fleets. The number of commercial operators cannot determine the size of the industry. All combined, the number has increased,” he said.
 
It will be recalled that the United States (U.S.) this week celebrated nine years of zero accident in the American airspace and among its airlines. Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 and the Aviation Safety Network both reported Monday there were no commercial passenger jet fatalities in 2017. “2017 was the safest year for aviation ever,” said Adrian Young of To70.
 
To70 estimated that the fatal accident rate for large commercial passenger flights is 0.06 per million flights, or one fatal accident for every 16 million flights.  In fact, U.S. has recorded 9,700,000 plus airline flights in 2017 and has not recorded any fatal US airlines accidents since 2009.  
 
Ojikutu, however, warned that nobody; operators and regulator in Nigeria should congratulate themselves the way Americans are doing.
 
He said 2016 was considered accidents free, “but we failed to reckon the air traffic for that year was about 30 per cent less than the traffic of 2015”, adding that there were a lot of flight cancellations due to scarcity of fuel, foreign exchange and bad weather.  

“2017 included all these and the repairs of Abuja runway, the takeover of Arik and Aero airlines and the problems of their recurring debts. These were reasons for the relatively low air traffic flights and possibly, subsequent accidents free in 2017,” Ojikutu said.

Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), in a report, indicated that a total of 9.2 million passengers passed through Nigerian airports in 140,552 aircraft movements between January and September 2017. Comparatively, the figures do not match statistics of 2015 and 2016, where a total of 15.2 million passengers travelled through the airports in each year.


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