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Nigerian pilots file flight plans manually – Minister

The Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka, on Thursday expressed concerns that in the 21st century, Nigerian pilots were still filing their flight plans manually rather than through electronic means in use in most developed and developing countries.

While describing this as an embarrassment to the aviation industry in the country, he said the Aviation ministry had started changing the system for better.

Flight plans are documents filed by a pilot or flight dispatcher with the local civil aviation authorities (e.g. Nigerian Airspace Management Agency) prior to departure. They indicate the plane’s planned route or flight path.

According to pilots and airline operators, filing a flight plan manually takes hours instead of minutes if it is done electronically.

The manual filing of flight plans is said to be also jeopardising airlines’ efficiency and security.

According to the minister, there is also an urgent need to listen to pilots that fly in Nigerian airspace in order to ensure that the country’s aviation navigational aids are up to date.

He stated this in Lagos when Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, operators of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two, inaugurated passenger self-service facilities at the terminal.

Chidoka said the ministry had introduced an on-time performance monitoring system to improve service delivery among the local carriers.

He said, “The on-time performance of domestic airlines dropped to an average of 17 per cent in the month of April. April has been a worst month since January when we started the on-time performance monitoring, using the aviation portal.

“FirstNation Airways still maintained the first position but dropped from 37.9 per cent in March to 27 per cent in April. FirstNation had an all-time high of 66 per cent in February.

“We are monitoring this performance in order to improve the on-time performance of domestic airlines. During our findings, we found out that the poor performance in April was caused by fuel scarcity; so, fuel scarcity impacted on on-time service delivery by the airlines.”

The minister decried the massive infrastructural and equipment decay in the aviation industry, adding that inadequate technological facilities had retarded growth in the sector.

While commending the newly introduced Common User Passenger Processing System by the operators of the MMA2, Chidoka emphasised the need for domestic airlines and other aviation agencies to improve on service quality.

He said, “The MMA2 has offered a template about how government should go about handling of Nigerian airports. There is an urgent need to listen to pilots who fly in our airspace. We should make sure that our navigational aids are up to speed. Airports are not terminal buildings, but do include terminal buildings.

“We have decided to change the system and MMA2 has beaten us to it. We need to improve passengers’ experience. I want other terminal operators to emulate the continuous improvements we are seeing in MMA2. What MMA2 has done today is good for the system.

The Minister disclosed that before the end of the month, the ministry would award some contracts for the upgrade of facilities at the nation’s airports, urging the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to take a cue from the BASL project.

The Chairman, BASL, Dr. Wale Babalakin, expressed joy that the MMA2 was marking its eighth year with the introduction of the CUPPS and passenger self-service facilities, noting that the development was a major development in the sector.

Babalakin emphasised the importance of partnership between the private and public sectors in order to move the nation forward, adding, “Intellectual leadership in government and considerable private input will lead to the aviation sector’s growth and development.

“Money should follow strategy and not the other way round. The MMA2 is a clear example of how money has followed strategy.”

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