The National Association of Air Traffic Engineers (NAAE) has warned air traffic controllers to stop causing panic among travellers by misinforming Nigerians that there is no communication in the airspace.
The engineers said that such misinformation had far-reaching effect on Nigeria’s air transport industry and the image of Nigeria in the comity of nations and accused the controllers of deliberately using one of the two frequencies available in the Lagos centre until it became congested and they started complaining, describing their action as mischievous.
The engineers under the aegis of the National Association of Air Traffic Engineers (NAAE) said in a statement that it wished “to state categorically our position on the current state of air navigational facilities at all our airports, especially the communication facilities. Our members are in charge of maintaining all the air navigational facilities and to the best of our knowledge; the facilities have remained operational with minor operational downtime due to ongoing upgrade of the communication facilities.”
The body said “the above clarification has become necessary in order to allay the fears that must have been created recently by professionals from certain quarters who ordinarily should have been custodians of Air Safety in Nigeria.”
“The issue of radio communication between controllers and pilots has been addressed by the previous management of the agency years ago when a sectorised survey of the Nigerian Airspace was carried out by International Air Radio Limited with the delimitation of the Nigerian airspace into two sectors, namely North and South each of which is further divided into two sectors.
“With the survey, the southern sector of the country was sectorised into Lagos West on frequency 120.9 MHz and Lagos East on frequency 127.3MHz. Since the sectorisation, it was observed that there was a deliberate use of Lagos East frequency 127.3 MHz for all in-bound and out-bound traffic on both the Lagos East and Lagos West sectors. With the increase in air traffic activities, the only frequency used became congested and for no known reason, the other frequency 120.9 MHz was abandoned.”
The engineers explained that the only time controllers ever used the Lagos West frequency after almost ten years of abandonment was during the tenure of one of the former managing director (Alhaji Ibrahim Auyo, a former Air Traffic Controller) who mandated them to revert back to the sectorisation plan of the Southern airspace but as soon as there was change in administration, they reverted to the use of only the Lagos East frequency.
“Why this is done is not clear to discerning minds, except to blackmail the present management,” the engineers said.
The body remarked that when the issue of communication became a topical issue for critics and following the discovery of the deliberate abandonment of a particular frequency 120.9 MHz, an investigation on the frequency was ordered by the management to ensure its reliability before it was redeployed for operation in order to decongest 127.3 MHz, adding that the test carried showed that 15 out of 21 samples showed strength five, which is the acceptable level.
“With the increasing volume of air traffic activities in the Nigerian Airspace, a project for the upgrade of communication facilities is being carried out. The project which is tagged “Total VHF Coverage of Nigeria” project has so far delivered VHF radio coverage on Lagos East -127.3 MHz, Lagos West -120.9 MHz, Kano West – 128.5MHz and Kano East -124.1MHz. This implies that more traffic is being accommodated in the Nigerian Airspace. The project is scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of 2013.”
The engineers also said that a team of field engineers and controllers had recently carried out a test on the communication radios and confirmed it reliable, noting that further public test was carried out during a recent press conference with the aviation correspondents in Lagos where all the participants in the conference listened to a clear communication between pilots and the air traffic controllers.
In the last few weeks the controllers said that there was no communication in the airspace, a claim that shocked many pilots who argued that if there was no communication no flight would go into the airspace.