Local airports are disasters waiting to happen because authorities are failing to maintain their safety facilities and crucial infrastructure.
The management of airports in Botswana falls under the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB), which is mandated under the Act for the regulating of air transport, to provide air navigation services, managing airports and advising the government on all aspects of civil aviation.
Information reaching Sunday Standard has shown that the Instrument Landing System, located at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKI), which is a ground-based radio beacon required to enable aircraft to land in bad weather, has not been calibrated in a while. The instrument is supposed to be calibrated annually as per international requirements and standards.
It is a requirement that the CAAB, as the regulator, should publish an Emergency Response Plan that it gives out to its stakeholders. Information shows that, to date, CAAB has not published any emergency procedures.
The Emergency Response Plan should answer the question ‘What will you do if there is a crash at one of the airports?’ The Sunday Standard can reveal that AB has outsourced this service to an international company, Blake International.
Information has revealed that Navigational Aids at the SSKIA, Kang, Kasane and Maun airports have not been operating correctly for over a year and this has disrupted the smooth operation of the aircrafts. In addition, the non directional beacons, which help a pilot identify an airport at night, have been reported to be intermittent hence very unreliable.
Unani Maditsa, a Captain at Air Botswana, bemoaned some of the challenges they are experiencing at the airports, with particular emphasis on the non maintenance of the Instrument Landing System, the beacons and emergency response, which is low. “This limits the kind of landing operations we can conduct,” said Maditsa.
When contacted for comment about the situation at the airports, Sakhile Nyoni- Reiling, the outgoing General Manager at AB, said she has received reports from the flight crews that there are a number of problems with navigational aids and sometimes with runway lights. However, Nyoni-Reiling refused to be drawn into much discussion on the situation at airports.
Amidst all these problems, CAAB has signed more than twenty bilateral service agreements with other countries to encourage other airlines to come to Botswana. But the big question is how other airlines will fly into Botswana when the infrastructure can go for a year with no maintenance.
In response to the safety concerns, CAAB has expressed confidence in its airports infrastructure as safe as any other airports of their standards to facilitate air travel. Modipe Nkwe admitted the delay in the calibration of the ILS machine. “We are aware of the delay but we expect all Navigational Aids, including the ILS, to be calibrated during February 2013,” said Nkwe.
He added that plans are underway to replace Navigational Aids at Kang airport, a tender has been floated. Navigational Aids in Maun and Kasane will be replaced during the 2013/14 financial year as part of the ongoing airports expansion programme.
In addition, he said Global Navigation Satellite Systems navigation technology is being developed to complement ground-based systems.