By Victoria Jumoke Adegbe
The role of Flight Dispatchers in the air safety value chain is increasingly gaining traction as air travel rebounds from the debilitating effects of COVID – 19 pandemic and its new variant – Omicron.
It is needless restating its devastation on air travel and other activities connected to logistics and allied activities.
Interestingly, festive periods, such as this, are peak periods for a lot of businesses especially, air transportation.
According to a report by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), over 80,875 flights took to the skies within the Nigerian airspace in 2019 with about 8.48 million people onboard both domestic and international flights.
Ostensibly due to many factors the sector has enjoyed from the collaboration of many industry players who have worked together to achieve no air crashes for scheduled flight operations in many years.
This feat has not come by happenstance, as the combined efforts of professionals namely : Airline pilots, cabin crew and officials of aviation agencies including the Federal Airports Authority (FAAN), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Accident Investigations Bureau(AIB), Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and Air Traffic Control have all worked together as actors to achieve the safest and best flight experience.
But, the assignment is not complete yet as the NCAA in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Standards and Recommended Practices continues to regulate air travel with the mandate that certain professionals must to carry licences as prove that they have been well trained and authorized to operate the aircraft in line with the requirements of their operating documents – licence.
To drive compliance, pilots in Nigeria carry the green licence, cabin crew professionals carry the purple licence, while aircraft engineers carry the Maroon licence.
Before 2007, the actors responsible for planning the whole flight- the brains behind the flight route, fuel calculations, weight considerations and other safety parameters and that share the responsibility for safety of the flight equally with the pilot did not have license in Nigeria!
Their counterparts in the US have been licensed since the 1920s.
Who are these actors? Those who have been responsible for the safety of the thousands of flights in Nigeria and all over the world , hitherto have been unknown and unlicensed?
To bridge this yawning gap, some founding fathers in the Flight Dispatch profession were called upon, led by a gentleman who took it upon themselves to ensure the NCAA licensed them.
This perhaps did not come easy following advocacy and other interventions to impress it on the regulator – NCAA to issue the first six licences to the professionals who spearheaded the struggle .
In what may appear as a dramatic twist, the gentleman who spearheaded the struggle was issued a licence number marked 007. Just like Ian Flemmings James Bond, Lanre Alaka earned the licence number – 007.
This long battle , may have quickened the establishment of the umbrella body of professionals in the flight dispatch value chain christened – Flight Dispatch Association of Nigeria (FLIDAN) in 2003.
With regulatory endorsement, flight dispatchers are ground pilots licensed to midwife aircraft safely to their destination.
Since 2007, over 1,000 licensed airline flight dispatchers have emerged since Lanre Alaka was issued 007.
But, many unsung heroes and founding fathers as flight dispatchers namely : Wasiu Folarin (first FLIDAN President), Amos Olajide, Raji Taiwo, Olatunji, Madiakaegbu Isaac, Saminu Tanko , Mr Olusina Sina and a host of others remain unacknowledged for their invaluable contributions to the profession.
So, whenever you see a plane take to the skies, be confident that someone in the control room, a licensed Flight Dispatcher is sharing responsibility for the safety of your flight and you can relax.
Should you however be a light green licence holder, and you never knew the story behind your licence, now you know. All thanks to Flight Dispatchers Association of Nigeria ( FLIDAN).