Lagos, Abuja airports get CAT III instrument landing system

Muritala Muhammud International Airport, Lagos.PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

To forestall flight glitches during extreme weather condition, the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, are set to receive Category III Instrument Landing System (ILS).

The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) disclosed that the CAT III equipment are currently being installed to replace CAT II at the airports, to boost operations and safety at two of the busiest airports in the country.

Managing Director of NAMA, Capt Fola Akinkuotu, said the project was aimed at tackling the problem encountered by pilots and airlines during the harmattan season.

An ILS enables pilots to conduct an instrument approach to landing if they are unable to establish visual contact with the runway. A CAT III operation is a precision approach at lower than CAT II minima and even at zero visibility.

It would be recalled that harmattan haze last December led to practical shutdown of local flight operations for some days when horizontal visibility dropped below the stipulated minima 800metres.

While local airlines were forced to reschedule or refund fares to restive passengers with attendant loses in millions, their foreign counterparts with advanced onboard technology operated unhindered.

Akinkuotu said besides the ILS upgrades, the installation of Doppler VOR and distance measuring equipment were ongoing at 14 airports to replace the old ones.

Also installed by NAMA is a back up radio in Kano and Lagos Command Areas, adding that vigorous trainings for air traffic controllers and engineers were being carried out in order to be abreast with current developments.

Akinkuotu noted that NAMA had taken steps to ensure seamless flight operations in the country’s airspace stressing that the airspace is now safer.

With only Lagos and Abuja airports running 24 hours, other airports across the country are fit for only day operations; limiting local services to between five and nine-hour operations a-day.

He urged the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to provide adequate lighting facilities at the airports while the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority must not relent in its regulatory oversight functions.  

Aviation Security Consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said the CAT III ILS upgrade has been long in coming for 20 years, though commended the NAMA MD for making it a reality.

Ojikutu said it was, however, regrettable that most of the airports are yet to get airfield lighting for night operations.

He said: “The point is, how much will it cost to light up the airports? In actual fact, it is less than $1 million and that is about N350 million multiplied by 10 airports.

If you make that investment, it enables you to maximize the businesses of private airlines using those airports.

“The airlines will be able to go to places like Owerri, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Benin, Calabar and Enugu among others beyond 7pm. The cost is only three to five billion.

The money is not in any way comparable to the benefits both airlines and industry will derive from night operations at more of our airports,” Ojikutu said.

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