Excerpts from the SBAS Flight Demonstration in Abuja, Nigeria

The Nigerian Communications Satellite, in conjunction with Nigerian Airspace Management Agency and its partners, including SatNav Africa JPO, Thales Space Alenia, ASECNA and EU Global Action on Space, held the 2nd outreach event on SBAS adoption in aviation in Africa with a series of SBAS flight demonstrations using NAMA’s Beechcraft King Air 350i with ANGA signal-in-space provided by NIGCOMSAT-1R Communications Satellite at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja yesterday, 1st February 2023. 

The primary objective of the demonstration was to provide a knowledge-sharing platform to support stakeholders’ decision-making in creating synergies to enable the collective reaping of benefits provided by the Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) in the continent, including safety, efficiency and environmental protection benefits. The demonstration exhibited the system’s ability and high-level precision in guiding aircraft laterally or vertically to align on the take-off, inbound and landing tracks, bringing the aircraft even lower than ground equipment could and assisting with landing with minimal deviation, thereby proving the system’s high integrity and accuracy in improving aircraft performance and airline operations and enhancing safety.

“Today, I am particularly elated that NIGCOMSAT Limited, in conjunction with Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), The Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), SatNav Africa Joint Program Office (JPO), and the Augmented Navigation for Africa (ANGA) jointly organised the 2nd SBAS flight demonstration and outreach event for stakeholders in view of SBAS adoption in Africa’s aviation sector. The synergy and collaboration displayed by these agencies in intellectual and human resources are highly commendable. This is the first of its kind in Nigeria and indeed in Anglophone Africa.”, declared Engr. Tukur M. LAWAL, Managing Director, NigComSat. 

In line with the Global and Regional Air Navigation plans, the ground requirements, master station, and control and reference centre for the SBAS service are currently under development. Following the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) workshop on the Implementation of SBAS in Africa, co-organized by the African Union Commission and African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) in May 2022 and hosted by Rwandan Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA), it was assessed as a needed solution for growth and development in Africa in line with African Union Agenda 2063 for a unified single African sky. 

Although every African country has an air traffic management system, Africa does not have a central air traffic management centre. According to the Acting Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Mr Matthew Lawrence Pwajok, “Other African countries can join ASECNA in line with the AUC’s vision to develop the single African air transport market to be supported by a single African sky. We are working on creating a central air traffic management centre for Africa to ensure seamless management of the African sky as a single entity rather than as a bloc that has to issue approvals to different airlines looking to fly into African countries. As a result, we expect improved connectivity between African countries, without requiring visas or approvals to fly, to enhance trade and movement within Africa.”

With the successful demonstration of the SBAS procedure, NAMA intends to continue building its internal capacity. Currently, the agency has trained an indigenous flight crew, engineers, a calibration team, and a dedicated aircraft to immediately manage the calibration and checking of aircraft equipment and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign experts. The flight crew and aircraft are specially insured because the procedure and system are new, and the manoeuvres differ. Furthermore, the procedure carried out yesterday is particular to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; thus, any other aircraft in the airport can emulate it.

“Following the success of this demonstration, we will send a report to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to do the quality assurance and authorise the use of the SBAS service in the Nigerian Aviation space,” said Mr Matthew Pwajok.

Although NigComSat provided the transmission of augmented signals, the SBAS system heavily depends on ASECNA’s ground infrastructure as it covers a large part of the African region. However, the SBAS service is not limited to signals from one satellite. There is a need for multiple options of satellites in space to serve as a hot backup in case of contingencies. “I’m proud to have demonstrated the utility and efficiency of the SBAS services in the continent. This event will bolster the deployment of the ANGA system, the navigation solution for Africa by Africa, which will enhance air navigation safety and efficiency for the benefit of the whole continent, in line with my vision for the unification of the African Sky”, stated Mohamed Moussa, Director General of ASECNA.

“Our longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS SBAS in Europe and KASS SBAS in Korea, combined with our new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies, make Thales Alenia Space the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently. We hope these series of demos will help to accelerate SBAS adoption in aviation in Africa”, declared Benoit Broudy, Vice President, Navigation business at Thales Alenia Space in France.

The outreach event, gathering airlines, aircraft manufacturers and other aviation stakeholders from all over the world, organised in a hybrid format, will continue in Abuja, Nigeria, from the 2nd to the 3rd of February, 2023. And the outcomes of the demonstrations, as a crucial step forward in the provision and use of satellite navigation services in the Africa and Indian Ocean region, will be debriefed during the event.