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‘No Nigerian Airport Can Make The Country Proud’


Country Representative of American based Avian System Corporation, Mr. Oladele Ogunlana, in this interview, speaks on prevalence of bird strikes in the Nigerian aviation industry and how to curb the menace. The Economics graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) also decries the sorry state of Nigerian airports. How would you access the state of Nigerian airports?

I think we have a basic problem of maintenance. We have been to other airports outside the shores of this country and seen that they work clockwise to maintain them in spite of the fact that their airports are busier than ours.

The current Minister of Aviation recently visited the airport and I expected her to visit the toilets and see what the place looks like but they did not take her there. Those toilets are disastrous.

Our airports are not airports. They are hot and stuffy. And we have now turned our airports to massive billboards. We have billboards and flyers in the airports, which is wrong. We appear to be shortsighted. I do not think that the Minister of Aviation should be the only person responsible for airport affairs. It is very important that we have the Foreign Affairs Minister to have a say in what goes on in the airports.

If you invite someone into the country today, the first thing that would blast the person is heat; and if he wants to visit the toilet, the water would not be running. So, if you come out of the airports, you would see people urinating in the premises. And then the person you meet as you come out of the airport wants to collect bribe from you. It presents a negative picture of the country.

So, the aviation industry should be the affair of the Ministries of Aviation, Foreign Affairs and Information. This is because it is a whole package we are selling. We are selling impression in the airport. It is a brand. It is not all the noise we make in the media that will brand the country. We have about 17 airports in this country but I am not sure of how many that is functional. We don’t have one we can be proud of. Our airports do not represent us as a nation.

Bird strike is one feared accident in the aviation industry. How prevalent is this phenomenon in the country today?

You know in this country, we don’t often report a lot of things that happen. In the past, we have had aviation accidents caused by bird strike in Nigeria. We have had Aero Contractors, Chanchangi Airlines and Virgin Nigeria. Recently, we had Dana and Arik. Aero Contractors made a loss of $16 million in 18 months when its aircraft was grounded by bird strike. In 2006, Chanchangi Airlines recorded five bird strikes and that cost the airline about $300,000. Virgin Nigeria has experienced 14 bird strikes. One of the strikes affected the undercarriage of Boeing 747 and grounded it for five days. It cost them $1000 to fix it.

Bird strike is becoming a big problem. I am very sure that airlines would really appreciate a system that would reduce the risk of bird strikes in terms of finance, lives and time that is lost in business.

Why is it prevalent in the country?

We are having it because the birds migrate from one place to another. A lot of the things that cause birds to come to airports are very prevalent in Nigeria. For instance, if there were stagnant water in the airport, it would attract birds. Again the airlines’ waste deposits also attract birds and wildlife. And we do not take care of these things most times.

What are people like you doing to help curb the menace?

In our own little way, through the Cordless Land -Air Wildlife System (CLAW), we have created equipment that would help to depopulate our runway and remove birds there. We know that aviation accidents are not what one would wish for. The birds can suddenly become nuisance. If a bird is stuck in the engine of a plane, there is the likelihood that the engine would shut down. At that point, there is nothing one can do.

The Avian System Corporation is just providing that proactive solution to get rid of birds from creating havoc on the runway. Basically, CLAW has a control hub, which we say is the point where you have information about when a plane is landing and taking off. This control hub is on the computer. There is a soft ware, which we load on the computer. It relates all the units that had been placed on the runway. Each unit spans about 200 metres.

The system has sound blast element of a cannon. And we have over 40 birds sound in the system to make the birds feel that the sound is that of a bird. From the computer, we can activate each unit to fire the cannon to scare the birds away by creating situations similar to when a bird is in distress.

Why scaring them away instead of killing them?

In some countries, we have laws that protect birds and animals. Moreover, birds are part of the ecosystem. It is not advisable to eliminate any part of the ecosystem. Otherwise, we would be creating a bird problem.

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