The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has said that it’s resolve to constantly upgrade navigational infrastructure in the country was borne out of the determination to enhance safety, improve operational efficiency of airlines and increase their profitability in the long run through reduced operational costs.
The Acting Managing Director of NAMA, Matthew Lawrence Pwajok, made these remarks in Abuja after a successful test flight of the Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) flight procedure using the agency’s calibration aircraft expressed confidence that the implementation of SBAS would not only enhance safety, efficiency and capacity of the Air Traffic Management system but would also increase the efficiency of the airlines through reduced flight time and turnaround time, reduced fuel consumption, reduced workload for both pilots and air traffic controllers and increased profitability over time.
He recalled that NAMA had earlier implemented PBN in 32 airports including military, private, state government as well as federal government airports, adding that “the whole essence of the SBAS is to improve on the integrity, accuracy, availability and continuity of the PBN signals by deploying a ground infrastructure or a master station that receives signals from several satellites, triangulates them and takes the best location and then broadcast it through a broadcast media globally to be received by any aircraft within that airspace. So, we have done PBN that provides lateral guidance needed to locate an airport but we have gone a step further to improve on it by implementing precision approaches using the satellite provided by Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT).”
Explaining further, Pwajok said, “while PBN provides lateral guidance for the aircraft to locate an airport, SBAS would provide improved accuracy, improved integrity of the signals, improved availability and continuity of the signals as it collects information from several signals or satellites rather than an aircraft using just one signal from a GPS to fly. So, the samples from several satellites would improve on the indication of accuracy.
Aircraft can then use it for improved accuracy in approach and landing, improved accuracy in flying en route, and improved accuracy in even descent profile as it provides us with the capacity to give aircraft lateral guidance, and vertical guidance either for approach and landing or take-off and climb for enroute flight. By this, it has helped us to maximize the use of limited airspace and that reduces what we refer to as controlled flights into terrain.”
The NAMA helmsman said, “the SBAS would be a win-win situation for airlines because over time they have been focusing attention on reducing cost and increasing profitability and this innovation will surely be of immense benefit to them in that regard.” He maintained that an aircraft would not require more than a retrofit for those that have been flying PBN and that it will not be capital-intensive for an airline to acquire a retrofit, stressing that given the cost-effectiveness of satellite navigation, SBAS would improve the economies of airlines in the long run. He also allayed insinuations that the agency will be phasing out Instrument Landing Systems (ILS).
“In aviation, it is required that every critical service must have redundancy. For us, it is an improvement in terms of the availability of service. When we had the ground-based navigational facilities we still went ahead to implement PBN. This is because the ground equipment are susceptible to power fluctuations, weather changes, technical errors and maintenance issues as well. The ILS is a system and can go off. If the equipment goes off due to power failure or any other reason and an aircraft is trying to land, the pilot can switch to satellite navigation. We must have a contingency and that is required by the NCAA regulations Part 14, and by ICAO Annex 11, that every service you provide must have redundancies,” he said.
He expressed satisfaction with the SBAS test flight saying that “the guidance was very impressive, the system was fully aligned, the level of deviations was very minimal. The pilot was able to bring the aircraft even further down than the ground equipment. And when an aircraft is able to come to a lower decision altitude that means the pilot had more access to the runway. The ability of a guidance system to bring an aircraft to a lower altitude enables the pilot to have more visibility to be able to make a successful landing.”