Nationwide flight disruptions imminent over continued use of CAT I, outdated ILS
Concerns are rising on the safety of Nigeria’s local airports excluding Lagos and Abuja over continued use of outdated Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) technology popularly known as CAT I.
Business Hilights recalls that earlier in August this year, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), announced the installation of CAT III equipment to replace CAT II at Lagos and Abuja airports, to boost operations and safety at the two busiest airports in the country.
Though far away in May 2017, the Federal Government had deployed new sets of Instrument Landing Systems (ILSs) to 18 airports nationwide; however, many of them are still on CAT I or II.
An ILS enables aircraft to land even if the pilots are unable to establish visual contact with the runway due to haze, fog and snow. It does this via transmitted radio signals.
The situation is becoming very important as season of hostile weather is setting in with its attendant danger up sky. Besides, the Managing Director of NAMA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, recently explained that seamless operations during harmattan depend on the equipment on ground and on the operating aircraft.
There are fears that NAMA is struggling in keeping the equipment functional at all airports, including Lagos, where regular power supply is not a guarantee.
An industry expert recently averred that “The reason we cannot go beyond CAT l in most of our ILS systems in Nigeria is not because of the equipment itself but because we cannot guarantee power supply. So, we are all CAT II capable but all of these have been downgraded to CAT I.”
He recalled that this type of “amazingly expensive” terrestrial equipment emerged after the Second World War. He said the world has since moved on to better and more advanced options that are cheaper to purchase and easier to maintain.
Continuing, the expert decried that “Whenever you want to change, you will come against vested interests. For a complete ILS, we would probably buy ours for $2 million. But that is about $1 million elsewhere. Everything bought by government in Nigeria tends to cost more. So, tell them about a technological leap that will do more for a few hundred dollars and nobody – those selling and those buying – will seem to be interested.”
Giving a clear picture of what happens when CAT III is on ground, a former managing director of NAMA, Capt. Roland Iyayi, said a CAT III ILS would ensure an aircraft could land blind at zero visibility, granted that the aircraft is equipped and the pilot is trained.
Iyayi noted that “Now, what we have are CAT II ILSs and they have their limitations. If you cannot see the runway at 50 feet, the position you hold as a pilot is to go around. As I speak, I am not aware that our ILSs have been upgraded to CAT III. I am aware of CAT ll. The foreign airlines are different because they have their onboard standard, which is CAT III, and their personnel have been trained to land at zero-zero. It is up to NAMA to tell us if the ILSs are up to CAT III and the airlines are not.”