West African states are seeking to establish common communication and surveillance systems to better coordinate and improve the overall safety of the airspace within the region.
Simon Allotey, Director-General of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), told Buisness24 exclusively that a number of agreements have been signed and implementation is being planned.
“We are now looking at implementation of the common systems for communications and surveillance data sharing. We are also talking to the ASECNA member states—made up of Francophone countries in West Africa except Guinea,” he said.
“We are also in talks with the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Roberts FIR—made up of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea—over implementing some common communication and surveillance systems, whereby we could share surveillance data so that the aircraft we are seeing in Accra will also be seen in Togo, and they know when an aircraft will be in their airspace.”
Provision of communication and surveillance for aircraft flying in the sub-region is currently handled by some individual countries, while other countries have formed a bloc to share communication and surveillance data.
The Accra Flight Information Region (Accra FIR), for instance, is split into two—Accra East and Accra West. Accra East’s control centre is in Lomé, while Accra West’s control centre is in Accra. Accra, however, handles issuance of notifications (NOTAMS) to their Togo and Benin counterparts.
Nigeria also operates its own Flight Information Regions (FIRs). Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea use the Roberts FIR, while ASECNA member states—Francophone countries in West Africa—use a common FIR.
Civil aviation authorities in these countries, with the support of their governments, are seeking to implement common communication and surveillance systems to better enhance coordination, data sharing and planning, and draw them closer to a future common upper airspace control centre, just as exists in Europe. European Union member countries share a common upper airspace control centre called Euro Control.
A common communication and surveillance system will greatly help in reducing accidents and incidents within the sub-region and assure passengers of enhanced safety when they fly. This makes for more effective planning.
“This is more of coordination and cooperation such as implementing joint systems. One system can provide control over a wide area. So, instead of Ghana acquiring its own satellite system and Nigeria, Abidjan, and Roberts FIR also acquiring their own system, states could come together and implement one system which would be shared and used by all of them.
Technology now abounds to have one system providing control over a larger area. In the early days we had a ground-based system, so everything was localised, but now with satellite-based equipment, you can sit in Accra and see what is happening in Niamey,” Mr. Allotey noted.