Nigeria's Aviation Minister suspends air traffic controller

Abuja- Nigeria (PANA) -- Nigeria's Aviation Minister, Mr.
Babatunde Omotoba, Wedn esday announced the suspension of the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) on duty and g r ounded the two aircraft involved in a near collision over the Port Harcourt airs p ace last week.
Omotoba also said the supervisor on duty at the time of the incident had been qu eried.
The minister, however, told journalists at the end of the weekly Federal Executi ve Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that averting the inc i dent and the take off of the radar coverage for the nation was enough evidence t h at Nigeriaâ?s airspace was safe.
According to him, â?this is a very good forum for me to assure Nigerians that N igeriaâ?s airspace is safe.
Last Friday, there was an air mishap over Port Harco urt.
An aircraft was taking off from Calabar, while another one was coming to la n d in Calabar and they were about to collide over Port Harcourt.
â? Explaining the incident, the minister said â?our investigations revealed that t he air incident was due to Air Traffic Controllerâ?s error.
The ATC, when we loo ked at his log book, actually asked the pilot that was coming to land to descend to a level of 21,000 feet, whereas what he put down on his log was 25,000 feet.
"He also asked the one which was taking off to Lagos to stay at 24,000 feet, so they had to cross path.
What saved the situation was the line of defence we have in our airspace.
On every aircraft in Nigeria, we have what we call Traffic Coll i sion Avoidance System (TCAS).
â?One of the aircraft was able to notice that an aircraft was coming very close to it and then it decided to come down 5,000 feet to ensure there was no collis i on.
"We are happy to discover that there was no collision and the TCAS that was put on our aircraft is working, otherwise it would have been disastrous on Friday.
â? Explaining the actions so far taken by the ministry, Omotoba said â?we have gro unded the two aircraft, we have called the crew, there is investigation going on between Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA).
"The first meeting was held on 3 November and then we also got all the ATCâ?s t ape, as well as the log book.
It was from there that we realised that it was ATC error,â? Omotoba disclosed.
He said â?in addition to being an ATC error, one would have expected that the a ircraft coming to land should have also noticed, because, from our investigation s , we have noticed that it was only one aircraft that was able to get that signal .
Now we have checked, the aircraft coming to land also has TCAS but we are inviti ng an expert to come and look at all our aircraft to be sure the TCAS we have ar e not epileptic.
"The other line of defence we have, by the end of this month when the total rada r coverage is fully up, the ATC in Port Harcourt, their error rate would be redu c ed, they would be able to see clearly.
â? Omotoba added: â?we are happy that this accident was averted.
The ATC that made the mistake has been suspended, his supervisor has been queried and we are cont i nuing with our investigation.
We will be able to know more very soon.

04 november 2009 19:20:00

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