The Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Engr. Ibrahim Abdulsalam has expressed optimism that the establishment of Runway Safety Teams at the four major airports of Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt would boost safety of air navigation in the country.

This, he said, when complemented with the training of the right personnel on the use of Runway Safety Tool Kits as well as the development and implementation of Runway Safety Action Plan, would help in achieving optimal results in terms of safety.

Engr. Abdulsalam, who made this declaration at the Sheraton Lagos Hotel, Ikeja in his welcome address during the opening of a two-day Runway Safety workshop, noted that, setting up of Runway Safety Teams which is an initiative programme of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in order to bring about  collaborative decision making amongst various stakeholders involved in runway operations.

According to him, this has become necessary for safety, efficiency and economy of flight operations within terminal areas and associated facilities at the airports.

“Runway safety remains the most critical aspect of air safety, not only because the most critical phases of flight operations occur within the runway strip, but because of the multiplicity of sensitive activities that take place within the airside,” he emphasised. He listed these activities to include takeoff and landing of aircraft, surface movement of aircraft, movement of operational vehicles, security personnel, Jet A1 vehicles, construction vehicles, airfield lighting maintenance personnel, navigational aids maintenance personnel, aerodrome rescue and fire fighting vehicles, Air Traffic Control vehicles on runway inspection, wildlife, vegetation and bird control, search and rescue vehicles, as well as various other stakeholders operating therein. According to the NAMA boss, the implementation of Runway Safety Teams is of strategic importance to the agency as its primary responsibility is that of preventing collision between aircraft in flight, between aircraft on the ground, as well as between aircraft, vehicles, obstacles or persons on ground. Engr. Abdulsalam pointed out that the Runway Safety Workshop, leading to the establishment of Runway Safety Teams, had become inevitable following the Abuja Ministerial Declaration of 2012 which recommended the implementation of appropriate measures to reduce the rate of fatal accidents within the African continent by not less than 50% in order to bring it down to the global rate.

In his words: the declaration was necessitated by the fact that “while the continent accounts for the least volume of flight and passenger movement as compared to other continents of the world, Africa nevertheless accounts for the highest rate of fatal aircraft accidents globally.” In his remarks at the event, the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. MuhktarUsman, represented by the Director of Operations, Capt. AbdullahiSidi, stated that, as a regulatory authority of the industry, the NCAA has put in place legal frameworks regarding runway safety and effort was being made to ensure full compliance that would eventually bring about zero accidents and incidents in the country’s runways. Also in his remarks, the Director of Airport Operations, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Henry Omeagwu, who represented the agency’s Chief Executive, Engr. Saleh Dunoma, stated that his agency places premium on operational safety standards at the airports with special emphasis on runways, taxiways and aprons just as he assured that FAAN was working assiduously to mitigate incidences of runway incursion, excursion and confusion at the nation’s airports. The FAAN boss therefore called on all stakeholders to support the Runway Safety initiative. Organised by NAMA in collaboration with other aviation agencies, the Runway Safety Workshop was conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO),

International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airport Council International (ACI) and it is expected to culminate in the setting up of runway safety teams for the country’s four international airports and a field inspection by visiting international aviation experts.