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Air Traffic Safety








Ijeoma Terese Ihenachor: Blazing a Trail in the ANS/ATM Realm




           Amazons in the largely patriarchal sectors of the aviation industry are known for a plethora of attribute – they are trailblazers, they are chronically committed to excellence, they are resilient, they are compassionate, they are intelligent, they are diligent and – what’s more – they are dogged go-getters.

To be sure, Engr. Ijeoma Terese Ihenachor (Mrs.) unarguably has no shortage of these attributes. Just a few months back, for example, she brazed a trail in Nigeria’s air navigation services landscape by becoming the first female substantive Director of Safety Electronics and Engineering Services at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). By all standards, Engr. Ihenachor is a distinguished engineer, an accomplished administrator, and a dedicated and compassionate humanitarian. She is a Melvin Jones Fellow (MJF) and Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE), the Certified Board of Administrators of Nigeria (FCBAN), the Nigerian Institute of Management (FNIM), and the Nigerian Institute of Electrical/Electronic Engineering (FNIEEE). Her contributions to the engineering field are evident in her roles as an executive member of NSE for seven consecutive years, as a member of various NSE committees, as a COREN Craftsmen Chief examiner, as a University accreditation officer, and as an APWEN (Association of Professional Women Engineers in Nigeria) General Secretary/Treasurer. She is also a member of the NIEEE Board of Fellows. She has represented Nigerian engineers at international conferences, including the Women and Information Communication and Technology conference in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, and the International Conference for Women Engineers and Scientists in Seoul, Korea. She was a board member of College of Education, Bichi, Kano, Nigeria. She also served as the Chairman of the NSE Membership Committee.

Born as the second child of Chief (Elder) J.O. Chuku, a retired Union Bank Manager from Item in Bende LGA, Abia State, and Chocho Naomi Hayford from James Town in Accra, Ghana, Engr. Ihenachor graduated with a B. Eng. in Electrical/Electronic Engineering from Anambra State University of Technology, Enugu in 1989. She furthered her education with a Masters in Executive Project Management, enriching her already impressive professional profile. She is married to Capt. Ihenachor and is a proud mother of four children.

Engr. Ihenachor is actively involved in humanitarian efforts, serving as a member of the Lions Club International and the International Aviation Women Association (IAWA). She has been recognised with numerous awards for her outstanding service and leadership, including the Anita Borg “Change Agent” for Women in Technology award. She has also received over 40 awards for her exceptional contributions to various fields.


As part of our ongoing celebration of women in aviation who have made tremendous contributions to the continuing safety, security and efficiency of aviation operations, we approached Engr. Ihenachor and here’s what she had to say:

How did you feel when you first received news about your recent appointment as the substantive Director of Safety Electronics and Engineering Services in the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA)?

I was overwhelmed with joy.  Although I have always prayed for it, I never knew my prayer would be answered with such awesome news.

Looking back, how would you describe your experience as the General Manager in charge of the all-important Department of NAMA charged with the responsibility of handling workshop, planning and engineering research matters?


I had mixed feelings. Firstly, it was exposing and provided a learning opportunity on CNS facilities. The Workshop, Planning and Logistics department gives the opportunity to have an overall view of the operation of CNS facilities, repairs, and maintenance. These are achievable through workshop repairs, research, statistics, and logistics, thus providing the ground to understand items that demand frequent repairs or replacement. Secondly, my experience as GM (WPL) was that of daunting challenges. These challenges strengthened my resolve to overcome difficulties, particularly dysfunctional attitudes in the workplace environment, especially towards women.


How would you describe today the Nigerian air navigation services provision arena?


From my perspective, there is a remarkable improvement from what it used to be in the past. It is now focused on the right trajectory of ICAO Annex 10 for a seamless one sky.

One significant area of concern as far as the provision of air navigation services in Nigeria is concerned has been the issue of communication infrastructure inadequacy. What are your thoughts regarding the feasibility of a satellite/terrestrial platform mix in closing existing communication gaps?


Initially, we did not get the right concept for communication infrastructure, but now we are on course to provide adequate communication on both voice and data using both satellite and terrestrial platforms. Presently, there is a plan to deploy communication infrastructure that will promote surveillance data sharing within the AFISNET region.

However, I am mindful of the possibility of interference with satellite signals that can have an adverse effect on navigation. For this region, I advocate for emphasis on redundancy advocacy, using optic fibre frequency and constant checks using point bearing distances and the use of known and intermittent checkpoints during navigation.


And what is the operational status of the AIS Automation Project (AAP) today?


The AIS automation project is 80 percent operational today. It is hoped that before the end of the year, the project will be 100 percent completed.


Now, talking about gender equality in aviation, how would you describe the place of women today as far as the Nigerian aviation industry is concerned?


I commend the President Bola Tinubu’s government and the Honourable Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development for their focus on women inclusiveness in aviation management. Women’s representation in the aviation sector is high, commendable, and this is highly appreciated.


Would you say that Nigerian women in aviation are getting a fair deal working in what has become known as a largely patriarchal industry?


As I have said earlier, women in aviation are confronted with a lot of dysfunctional attitudes arising from gender bias. However, with increasing advancement and enlightenment coupled with the influx of more women into the industry, such attitudes have significantly diminished. Most importantly, the global policy and the domiciliation of the policy on women inclusiveness by the present administration to drive the renewed hope agenda has brought about a significant change. It has given hope, encouragement, and opportunities to women in aviation, thus making them realize that they can attain their full potentials irrespective of gender.


What changes are you seeing today both in Nigeria and globally regarding the engagement of women in the CNS/ATM sector of the aviation industry?


There is a paradigm shift brought about by the government of the day which has recognized the potential in women and provided them the opportunity to be partners in progress in transforming the CNS/ATM sector. Recently, it is observed that more women have been given the opportunity to occupy notable positions in the CNS/ATM region globally. It is the trend and countries are encouraged to adopt the same.


Some people would rather argue that the population of women in aviation is recording geometric increases all over the world today. What are your thoughts regarding sustaining this momentum?


My thoughts on this are that there should be a review of the terms and conditions of service such as the provision of child care facilities for nursing mothers, introduction of automation as part of the work culture and consideration or exemption of mothers from deployment on night shift duties.

How do you see the future of women in the context of the air traffic safety electronics profession?


I see a bright future for women in the air traffic safety electronics profession. The global trend coupled with the encouragement of the present government has established a ray of hope and encouragement for women who are hardworking to realize their full potentials. This, of course, can be boosted if all the enablers mentioned earlier are introduced. ◙