tracon 13 years later tracon 13 years later

Evaluating Tracon Airspace Architecture Performance 13 Years After: A Look Back

Nigeria witnessed a transformative period in aviation with the establishment of the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) system. Implemented in 2011, this endeavor marked a significant step toward modernizing the country’s airspace.

Transition from Challenges

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Nigeria’s airspace faced numerous obstacles. The infrastructure was outdated, with many navigational aids being obsolete and inadequate. This situation posed a major risk to air travelers, leading to frequent accidents and a general sense of fear among passengers.

Pilots were visibly frustrated with the poor navigational aids across various airports, reflecting a broader issue of neglect and mismanagement within the aviation sector.

Despite these challenges, recent years have seen improvements thanks to concerted efforts to address the infrastructure decay.

For instance, an intervention fund of N40 billion facilitated by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo, aimed to revitalize the nation’s aviation facilities.

TRACON: A Key Achievement

The Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) stands as a monumental achievement in ensuring air safety. It encompasses several components, including:

  • Primary Surveillance Radar (PSR) STAR 2000
  • Monopulse Secondary Surveillance Radar (MSSR) RSM 970S
  • Integrated Flight and Radar Data Processing Eurocat C

These technologies were installed at four major airports: Lagos, Kano, Abuja, and Port-Harcourt, with additional installations at five other locations: Maiduguri, Ilorin, Numan, Obubra, and Talata Mafara.

Effective Surveillance

TRACON ensures that no aircraft can enter Nigerian airspace without being detected by air traffic controllers. This comprehensive monitoring system places Nigeria among the few African nations, alongside South Africa, Angola, and Egypt, that have achieved full radar coverage.

The hub of this advanced system is Lagos, known for its bustling airspace.

Despite claims from journalist David Hundeyin about the lack of primary radar coverage, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has maintained that Nigeria’s radar stations are operational and provide the necessary air navigation services.

NAMA’s Response to Allegations

NAMA’s Managing Director, Umar Ahmed Farouk, has confidently dismissed allegations of insufficient radar coverage. He highlighted the serviceability of radar stations in various locations, asserting that the airspace is adequately monitored.

He also clarified misconceptions surrounding the term “unidentified” aircraft, explaining that it often refers to known aircraft encountered under specific circumstances, such as adverse weather.

Farouk emphasized NAMA’s dedication to providing safe and effective air navigation services.

He pointed out that the TRACON project has significantly enhanced air navigation and surveillance, enabling real-time search and rescue operations.

Modernization Efforts

Despite TRACON’s success, the need for modernization remains evident.

Farouk admitted to the challenges posed by outdated equipment and spare parts shortages. The average lifespan of the electronic systems within TRACON is between 15 and 20 years, with many components exceeding that age.

Efforts are underway to replace and upgrade the equipment.

Approximately 80% of the replacement process has been completed, with contractors working diligently despite funding issues.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the modernization of the TRACON system, and 15% of the funds have already been paid.

There is optimism that the system will be restored to optimal performance once the modernization process is completed.

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