Sunday, July 14, 2024

Aviation industry called to rise to new challenges

Stakeholders at a two day 2013 Aviation Pitso held in Maun have called for an urgent reaction to the many resolutions which they discussed at the 2013 Aviation Pitso, as they fear the delays may in a way jeopardize the day to day operations of the aviation industry. Some of these concerns included the issue of legislation interpretation by CAAB officers, the lack of maintenance programs and spares backup of equipment at airports, the issue of maintenance gates at airports which are always locked, thus making it very risky during emergencies, inadequacy of security in and outside the airports whereby even the CCTV cameras are not availed to cover airport buildings and outside, insufficient monitoring of movements of aircraft moving from private airfields, both locally and outside, to mention but a few.

Presenting updates on some of the concerns raised, Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) Chief Executive Officer Major General Jefferson Tlhokwane said to address the issue of maintenance programmes, Air navigation services and maintenance documentation have been availed and dispensed to all airports, adding that procedure has always been that fast moving spares and consumables for equipment be kept at all stations up to module level, while long term spares are safely kept at the central stores workshop based at the Sir Seretse Khama Airport (SSKA),and only dispatched to stations upon request. To date, Tlhokwane said X-ray machine spares worth close to P2 million have been procured and that maintenance contract is being settled, adding that an additional x-ray machine will be moved from Francistown airport to Maun mid November.

“We are also doing everything possible to ensure that there is enough access to all our airports and that they act in accordance with emergencies. Presently crash gates at Kasane airport particularly have been upgraded to remote control system. Should funds permit, our intention is to upgrade those at the Maun and Francistown airports. The issue of security is also top of our priorities. Currently daily patrols are being carried out by CAAB security personnel, and we intend to have automated security once we get funding. As you might be aware, the issue here is the unavailability of funds. Regarding the monitoring of aircraft movements, CAAB in collaboration with the BDF and Botswana Police Services have staged surveillance exercises to restrain all violation.

As we speak, draft operational procedures to monitor traffic at private airfields are awaiting the engagement of all concerned stakeholders, among them the BDF and those from the department of Wildlife and National Parks, before implementation as anticipated. The police are also currently receiving all flight plans”, he said. Meanwhile the Minister of Transport and Communication Nonofo Molefhi told stakeholders that it is important that they explore opportunities within the aviation sector and define ways of exploiting the same opportunities if at all they want to see growth. He said it is important that as industry, they are conscious that their operations do not exist in a vacuum, as they are regulated by standards that are applicable worldwide.

“As regulators, we will work with you as it is our mandate to facilitate and work with you at ensuring that these standards are met. You need to put heads together and stretch the capacity of the industry so that we may have a sub -regional centre where aircraft modifications can be undertaken. In the recent past, we carried out an audit where some serious concerns were identified. Newspapers have recently also had a field day suggesting Botswana skies are unsafe. We need to dispel that perception and correct all that needs to be corrected. This therefore means all of us in the industry should come together so as to regain the confidence of our customers because all these allegations have tremendously affected the reputation and credibility of the industry as a whole.

CAAB is there to give all the needed support and to ensure that compliance is met”, said the minister. Molefhi went on to say the government of Botswana has since signed search and rescue as well as bilateral air service agreements with neighboring countries which are intended at attracting the environment so that other operators may come to Botswana. He said the idea is to create opportunities that will enable stakeholders to source markets so that neighboring countries can stretch their wings and fly in this region.

He said “Take advantage, think outside the box and sniff around in those countries and see if airlines there are keen to fly here. I also believe you will stretch your minds further afield and explore opportunities that await us in the industry. As government, we are also re-looking at our infrastructure and working on procuring assets and equipment to ensure the safety of our flights as neighbors, and I believe with sustained collaboration we should be able to rise to the occasion”.


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