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Issues Surrounding Safety Of The Nigerian Airspace And The Aviation Industry - Travel - Nairaland

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Issues Surrounding Safety Of The Nigerian Airspace And The Aviation Industry by omogenikky(f): 6:55pm On Jan 13, 2006
I found this following piece quite interesting............

Just to pick your interests, please find attached, a write-up on issues raised recently in an article on the same topic, published in the VANGUARD Newspaper of December 5. I implore you all to please read this attached text. Its only 7 pages long. Well worth your reading. Comments and responses are solicited.

Part B of the write-up will follow in a few days. Come fly with me...........

Regards.

Stephen Ade Adekoya


[center]Comments On Issues Surrounding Safety Of The Nigerian
AirSpace and The Aviation Industry In General

Stephen A. Adekoya
Seattle, Washington. January 12, 2006 [/center]
Introduction:
The following is an attempt to educate and to share some of my knowledge on issues surrounding the safety of the Nigerian Airspace, and the aviation industry in general. Similar to Legal qualifiers that precede opinions, I wish to state upfront that this is NOT an attempt to preach at people, nor is it an attempt to sound like I know it all. I just happen to have enjoyed a wonderful opportunity growing up in Nigeria, being educated in that system, and although I now reside and enjoy the fruits of the Nigerian roots in the U.S, I feel a strong need to contribute (give back?) to improving the quality of life of the average Nigerian, in whatever ways I am able.
To compliment that, I have been fortunate to have worked for The Boeing Company in various capacities for fifteen (15) years now, and I pride myself in having a sound fundamental knowledge of the aviation industry, particularly issues surrounding safety and regulatory compliance. Enough preamble, lets get to the points.
My prompt for writing this article is a December 5, 2005 VANGUARD Newspaper article titled “Corporate: Why Our Airspace Is Dangerous – Capt. Tito.” The article’s author is Omoh Gabriel. While I thank and applaud the author and the VANGUARD Newspaper for publishing the above referenced article, the article was very poorly written, hard to understand, and full of technical errors and inaccuracies. In fact, my first inclination was to re-write the article correctly – grammatically and contextually, while trying to maintain the accuracy of the thoughts and opinions expressed by Capt Tito.
The reason why I initially thought of re-writing the article was to facilitate an easier understanding of the critical issues raised. Even with my fifteen year aerospace industry experience and familiarity with the issues raised, I have had to read the article three times over. Even then, I can only say that I partly comprehend the gist of the issues raised.
I have opted however, not to re-write the article, for the fear that my true intent could be misconstrued as just making editorial pontifications on critical safety issues of human safety, life and death. Instead, I have opted to capture the key issues that I believe Capt. Tito is calling attention to, and I would provide comments and opinions on them. Dialog and rebuttals are certainly welcome. In fact, looking ahead, I hope not only to generate dialog, but to facilitate the development of implementable solutions that through our collective worth, can be effected, to make substantive changes where necessary. It would be a shame in the end, if all we generate is dialog with no actions.
For ease of presenting and discussing the multiple issues, I am going to divide and present the issues in sections. Part A will address the first three issues; Part B will address issues 4 through 6..and so on. So please stay tuned. The text is long, but well worth your reading. I have also taken great pains to demystify notions that these issues are tough to comprehend. Come along on this flight…and fasten your seat belts.
Issue #1: The crash of the Bellview airplane and several other crashes by local Nigerian airlines in 2005, and in recent years, have brought to the fore, the inherent danger in air travels in Nigeria.
Comment #1: Fact acknowledged. Losing just one life in any airplane accident is “one–too-many”. A skeptic’s position however, could be that there is inherent danger in every aspect of human life, and that airplanes after-all, are machines, and would sooner or later break-down. Similarly, as long as airplanes are piloted by human beings, there is always going to be a human error component (poor judgment, wrong decisions, lack of adequate training, fatigue, and a host of other possible factors) that will always cause airplane accidents to happen.
Compliment that with all the environmental – weather related and uncontrollable issues, and without doubt, there is inherent danger in air transportation. Having said that, danger is as a fact of life, inherent in every other mode of human transportation. While I fully acknowledge that quoting statistics on the relative safety of air transportation (over other forms of transportation) does not console anyone who lost a family member or dear one in any of the Nigerian airplane crashes, the facts remain, that air transportation is the safest mode of human transport today. A logical question worth asking however, is – what is the safety record of Nigerian airlines, compared to airlines of other African countries, and also, compared to the safety record of the rest of the world?
As of November, 2005, prior to the Bellview crash, while Africa accounted for only about 4% of global air traffic, its accident rate was 25%, which is six times worse (less safe) than the world rate. Of course, the Bellview crash makes the relative comparisons even worse for Nigeria in particular, and Africa in general. What is the therefore, the key message? While there is inherent danger in all modes of human transport, and those of us in the aerospace industry are quick to claim that air transportation is relatively, the safest of all modes of human transportation, the Nigerian air transportation accident rate is currently (January 2006) THE WORST in the World. Don’t be alarmed. This fact is very well known in all spheres of the World Civil Aviation industry, as well as within the Nigerian Civil Aviation Industry and by the Nigerian Government. The obvious question that comes to mind then is – why is this not a major concern for the average Nigerian and the Nigerian government?
I will venture to say it is indeed a major concern for the Nigerian people and government. In fact, I dare to say that the Nigerian leadership is probably frustrated with a lack of progress in improving the safety of the Nigerian air space. You may wonder why I have taken this optimistic position. Possibly because the Nigerian leadership has little control over several ills of the society- from corruption, to indiscipline, to outright disregard for the health and welfare of our fellow-man, that have permeated deep into the inner fabric and soul of the Nigerian society. These ills that have become the norm in the Nigerian society have now caused actions and consequences that in general, defy reason, logic and at times, sanity. As we discuss other issues raised by Captain Tito, we will revisit the role that each of these societal ills has played, and continues to play, in the failure of the Nigerian aviation system, and the dire and grave financial and human life loss consequences.
Issue #2: According to Captain Tito, Operators, rather than pilots (in Nigeria) decide when and how to use an airplane; a practice that is contrary to international convention in the aviation industry.
Comment #2: This is a major accusation, and one that if true, has truly dire and grave consequences. From my limited direct familiarity with practices that may be prevalent in the Nigerian aviation industry, I am unable to personally validate or dispute this accusation. I however, mentioned this accusation to an esteemed colleague of mine who served for over 20 years as the Boeing Sales manager in Africa. In fact, this colleague was involved in the sale of all Boeing airplanes to Nigeria over this time frame. To my surprise, he cited at least one occasion that while visiting a Nigerian airline, he personally witnessed the airline operator over-rule a pilot, in deciding that an airplane that the pilot decided was not airworthy, should be flown.
The issue my friends, is not a lack of awareness or understanding of international aviation industry safety standards or convention that states very simply, that the pilot has the final say and determination of the airworthiness and decision to fly an airplane. For pilots to be over-ruled by operators, and made to fly non flight-worthy airplanes, putting the lives of innocent paying passengers (including the compromising pilot) at risk is down-right unethical, malicious, and of dire and grave consequences. My gullible self would like to believe that no operator in their rightful minds would knowingly mandate a pilot to embark on such actions, except of course if they are driven by greed. Could greed be one of Nigeria’s vile ills?
Without a doubt, operating a commercial airline is an expensive venture, with over 50% of the world’s airplane fleet being leased. In the past few years, even prior to the 911 terrorists acts in 2001, the entire aviation industry (the U.S. included) was being run at a loss. And this included periods when traffic levels were increasing (as is the case in Nigeria); or in the least remained flat in several areas of the world. Over the past 5-10 years, yields – a measure of airline economic profitability has steadily gone down. With the challenges of making payments on airplane leases, operational costs and maintenance costs, several relatively well run airlines have lost vast amounts of money; several have gone into bankruptcy, several have merged, and some simply have folded. Once prominent, but now extinct airlines like Swiss Air, Pan Am, and a few others come to mind.
The point therefore, is that operators of Nigerian airlines, like operators world wide, faced and continue to face similar profitability challenges, and commercial airline operations have not been profitable world-wide, over the past few years. In fact, the list of profitable airlines in the past five years include most notably, Low Cost Carriers like Southwest Airlines in the US and Ryanair in Europe. Despite the massive financial losses incurred industry wide, there is no common knowledge of airline operators in other parts of the world (save Nigeria) that have knowingly and callously disregarded established international aviation safety standards, and caused or made pilots to fly non airworthy airplanes.
Having said that, enter the Nigerian airline operators unique challenge
– running an expensive business in a largely unethical society. A Nigerian friend of mine familiar with fraudulent practices (that he claims is pervasive) within the Nigerian aviation system, called my attention to the plight of the Nigerian airline operator, who despite his huge ownership and operational costs, is easily and frequently defrauded by employees and accomplices who print fake boarding passes, or enable non-paying passengers to board airplanes. The airline operator is consequently easily perplexed, when he sees his airplanes leave fully loaded with passengers on most trips and routes, but has little or no net revenues (profitability) to show for his business venture. Could such added challenges cause an operator to knowingly and callously disregarded established international aviation safety standards, and cause or make pilots to fly non airworthy airplanes. Your call, on the possibility.
Issue #3: Clarification of the term “MEL”, and the claim by Capt. Tito that “We know that local airline operators have cautioned their pilots not to record snags (faults) on the pilots log, for fear of airplanes being grounded”
Comment #3: This is another major accusation, and one that if also true, has truly dire and grave consequences. Again, I personally have very limited direct familiarity with the prevalence of such unethical practices within the Nigerian aviation industry, and as such unable to refute the allegation. My two cents worth though…..
First, the acronym MEL stands for Minimum Equipment List (not lease). The MEL by regulation, (and by its simplest literal definition), identifies a list of flight worthiness criteria by which a pilot determines if an airplane is flight worthy. In the course of any flight, faults may happen.
Remember, an airplane in all its glory, is still a machine, and machines develop faults. In rare instances when major faults …like the loss of airplane pressurization or loss of an airplane engine occur, the pilot knows that his immediate actions are to land the airplane as quickly as possible. In more common and at times routine instances, other faults occur on airplanes that are not immediately threatening to the flight worthiness of the airplane. In these instances, the pilot uses his professional judgment in completing the flight leg, and the fault or faults are recorded in the pilots log.
The requirement for a pilot to log all recorded faults during a flight is a basic professional responsibility of a pilot, one that should not be compromised as it is a requirement for certification and re-certification. No pilot in the civilized world, and to my knowledge would dare violate this basic requirement, as the consequences are clearly understood industry wide. The affirmation by Capt. Tito with the words “we know” that Nigerian airline operators caution their pilots not to record flight faults, is not only disturbing, it is unethical of both the operator and the compromising pilot.
I wish to clearly point out that recording faults that occur during flight operations is routine world-wide, and is not necessarily bad. Again, airplanes are machines, and faults will always occur. The essence of recording the faults is for the maintenance crew to know and fix the recorded faults, once the airplane lands…and preferably before the next flight leg. Again, as long as the faults do not render the airplane non-flight worthy, the pilot can knowingly and legally defer the fixing of the faults, and embark on the next flight leg. The professional requirement however, is that the pilot must record on the pilots log, the basis, (based on the pilots best professional judgment, not the operators mandate or threat), why fixing the faults are being deferred.. The airplane down-time…mostly in the evenings are the ideal times for airplane mechanics to fix these “deferred” faults, as customary within the aviation industry.
Should a fault that impairs the flight worthiness of an airplane not be fixed during the night down-time or the turn around times between flight legs, yes, by aviation industry safety standards, the airplane should be grounded. Several factors, including the lack of ready availability of critical airplane spare parts, engineering repair specifications, and/or technical expertise may contribute to a critical flight-worthiness impairing fault not being fixed in a timely manner, causing the airplane to be grounded. A grounded airplane of course, does not generate revenues for (in many cases), cash strapped airline operators. This would explain, but not justify, why fraudulent airline operators may “ask” their pilots not to record faults that could if not fixed, could ground their airplanes and further negatively impact their profitability.
This possibility raises grave failures of several key elements of the Nigerian system. Not only is the airline operator unethical and fraudulent in this case, the compromising/complying pilot is also fraudulent and in jeopardy of losing his pilots license. So, where is the Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency…the arm of the government that is responsible for educating and enforcing stringent international safety aviation rules and mandates, to protect the safety and well being of the flying Nigerian? How could the entire system be so corrupt and inept that things have gotten this bad? Its mind boggling.
This logically leads next to the accusations levied against the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority by Capt. Tito. This would be discussed in detail in succeeding issues. For issues 4 through 6, see Part B of this write-up. If you got this far reading this text, I personally thank you for your time and attention. It warms my heart to know that you care. Please provide feedback, and join the dialog.
While there may be nay-sayers out there, who may take the position that this is all rhetoric, and a re-hash of the known ills with the Nigerian society, I challenge you to not only engage in this dialog, but to help orchestrate substantive implementable solutions to revamp this industry, and to support the successful execution of a vital element of the Nigerian infrastructure. A successful and safe aviation industry is vital and necessary to the economic success of Nigeria. Once again, I thank you for your time and attention, in getting this far in this memo. Please respond.

Re: Issues Surrounding Safety Of The Nigerian Airspace And The Aviation Industry by Iwhiwhu81: 8:04pm On Dec 30, 2012
Awesome Writeup sir. I'm a trainee pilot at Riverside Flight Center inn Tulsa Oklahoma and i like it when i get information concerning our beloved country because to be frank information is not provided to the public and its people like you who give us hope. Thank you for your good work and research.

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