Engr. Salisu Daura, Director of Engineering Services, of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), recently had a chat with FAAN News Track. Excerpts of the chat are captured here by Transport Day newspaper.
You are the Director of Engineering Services of FAAN. What does your job entail and how challenging is it?
The task is very herculean. The “Engineering Directorate” is key to the organization because every infrastructure in aviation industry is primarily an engineering infrastructure, starting from the main asset, the Runway which is a highly specialized kind of pavements; taxiways, apron ways, terminal buildings with its accompanying infrastructure therein (conveyor belts, lifts, escalators etc.) are all engineering facilities. The Avio- bridges, airport ambience (generally in terms of lighting, air conditioning) water provision are all part of engineering. Going by that index, you can imagine how tough it is to man such a huge compendium of activities. Outside the terminal building, we have the office complex, staff quarters at most of the airports. All of the above are tied to the Engineering Directorate and sub-divided into units, such as Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Land, Water & Survey etc. There are engineering personnel responsible for managing these engineering services at our nation’s airport. The Director of Engineering Services oversees all these operations.
Power supply at the airports especially MMA has greatly improved. What’s the secret Sir?
The secret is upgrade. Since 2010 precisely, we commenced a very aggressive drive towards renewal and upgrade of our infrastructure. The upgrade has especially to do with power because all these engineering facilities that I talked about need power to function. The lift needs a reliable and stable power for it to be operated; escalators, conveyor belt, the air conditioning, chillers, or other make of air conditioning are all dependent on a reliable means of power supply. We realized early enough that we can’t achieve much without first stabilizing the power supply. Nigeria as a nation has been grappling with power situation because power is very critical to the development of any nation. All our precision kind of activities with sophisticated communication gadgets require reliable power supply for them to function.
Murtala Muhammed International Airport, our premier airport, was commissioned in 1979. Most of the infrastructure within MMA has not been upgraded. That was why we were having lots of hiccups. In the early days of MMA when power failure was very few and far in between, we may not have noticed the decay but in recent years, system collapse has become like a household name in Nigeria. The same thing that is bedeviling the power sector as a whole. Due to the critical nature of power in aviation operations generally, we had to fast track the upgrade and renewal of our own. We cannot wait for the nation to solve its problem when services has to do with human lives. Like one of my mentors who happens to be the pioneer MD of FAAN, Engr. M.S. Baba said, “An Engineer at the airport should be very conscious of his responsibilities. He cannot be like his counterparts, with all due respect, in the ministry of works for example. In aviation, if anything goes wrong, even if you escape the panel of enquiry, your conscience will never allow you rest knowing that it was due to your laxity that an accident occurred.” Often times accident in aviation sector are very catastrophic, hardly will you hear of any survivor if a plane crashes, it is only by the grace of God, so at all times you have to be on your toes, thinking of how to make sure that the system function against all odds. There are no bus stops in the air.”
Tell us more about the MMA Power Project. What do we have on ground from the mains and what can we generate?
Like I said earlier we cannot afford to toy with the goose that lays the golden eggs. Every FAAN staff knows that MMA is the back bone of the organization. Revenue from that airport is being used to subsidize operations in some other airports. Therefore, we cannot afford to let anything go wrong. That is why in every major planning, MMA is the focal point before proceeding to other international airports. When MMA was commissioned in 1979, it came with an installed capacity of just 13.5 MVA of standby power. Over the years, there has been a lot of load increases and those generators were over-flogged. At some point the companies that made them went extinct; we could no longer even source for their spare parts. By the time I came to headquarters, I found out that it was only 2 out of the 6 installed generators that were functioning We knew something drastic must be done except we want to see ourselves shutting down the airport. We have no control over the national grid and so when system collapses without early announcement, we can’t prepare for it. We had to make sure we have our own standby. Fortunately enough, even the ICAO according to its standards and recommended practices, no international airport should operate without an adequate standby and reliable power supply arrangement.
Therefore it became imperative for us to make sure we upgrade that aspect. The project was conceived, the consultant was commissioned they carried out due diligence, came with recommendations to ministry then to Council. Because of the importance of the venture, approval was gotten and project eventually took off in the budget year of 2009 and 2010.By the grace of God that is what has kept us going because as at the time we conceived that project, the power situation was still a little bit fair. Now it has gotten really bad especially when we talk about the system collapses. That was the genesis of having six brand new generators. We just replicated six generators with a capacity that was twice of what came with the airport. Some projections were made so that at least we can carry on operations in the next 10 years without problem. On the public mains supply, we also doubled our capacity from 15 MVA to 30MVA. We got redundancy of another 15MVA. All in all, we have 45MVA of capacity on the main side, and on the generator side, we have 30 MVA of standby capacity. This covers us adequately. One good thing about projection is that when we were on the drawing table, none of us anticipated the coming additional terminals. We doubled the size of the conductors that carries power to the international terminal building hoping that whatever happens in the future not knowing the future was very near and now that the Chinese terminal is coming, am very proud to say it is only at MMA that we don’t have a power gap. So the capacity we have is more than adequate to carry the new terminal building when it eventually becomes operational
What role did the Directorate of Engineering Services play in the certification of MMA and Abuja Airports?
Of course the outside world looks at certification as a baby of operations but behind the scene, most of the issues that matter that could prevent us from being certified were engineering related. When you talk about pot holes on the run way, it is engineering. When you talk about not having adequate signage, it is engineering. When you talk about signage not being lit, it is also engineering. When you talk about terminal building ambiance, we need to do this or have that in place, it is also engineering. So you can see that the engineering and operations are intertwined in airport sense of the word. While operations oversee the physical activities of facilitation, engineering oversees and ensures that those facilities and infrastructure that will enhance facilitation are in place. An airport manager cannot function when he has a terminal building that is extremely hot where chillers, conveying belts, avio-bridges, escalators etc. are not working. All these are engineering. The whole gaps that had to be closed according to our regulator NCAA were mostly engineering. NB-First published in News Track, April, 2018.