Hardly a year since the takeover of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB), from the former Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), cracks have begun to show, revealing various safety and security deficiencies, which could imperil the credibility of the national airlines regulator if not given due attention.
An audit report of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), pointed to serious gaps in the Airline’s skills pool, safety and security risks emanating from the absence of elementary civil aviation regulations and a serious gap in terms of requisite skills for operating the flying machines.
Meshesha Belayneh, Chief Executive Officer of CAAB, said, “We only came to discover upon our arrival that the ICAO Audit report was shelved, somewhat given a “Classified” status, and kept away from everybody’s attention and therefore not acted upon.”
The reason for DCA’s non action remains a mystery, and that was despite the fact that there is usually a prescribed time within which the international body would expect any identified deficiencies to be acted on, which in this case was within six months.
Some of the shortcomings and deficiencies identified in Botswana’s aviation system by the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP) of 2006 involved the manner in which the DCA documented their oversight functions.
Belayneh expressed optimism that on account of the fact that the Authority has only just begun its business, it should be noted that its primary focus will certainly be to address before everything else, all outstanding deficiencies identified by the audit, because in the final analysis, the idea is to ultimately comply with international standards.
He made the point that by virtue of the cross boundary movement of the CAAB staff and more importantly, the fact that Botswana flights serve more than just locals but people from different countries who would not allow their nationals’ security to be compromised in anyway.
Belayneh said that in order to address the highlighted gaps, the Authority has kept lines of communication with ICAO and the European Commission on issues of aviation safety oversight.
Regarding, many of the deficiencies relating to aviation legislation and specific operating regulations, the CAAB Chief intimated that they will be addressed once the new air navigation regulations are promulgated and implemented.
Meanwhile, procedures have been drafted with the assistance of Cooperative Development of Operational Safety and Continued Airworthiness (COSCAP-SADC) in line with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs).
However, the drafts are still before the Attorney General for their perusal from a legal point of view.
As to how long the AGC is likely to take since the delay of the regulations affect safety and security procedures, Belayneh said, “We are as much desirous of seeing the process completed, but given the challenge of terminology there has been a back and forth movement between the respective offices in a bid to harmonize the rules.”
In the meantime, Nannie Chiepe, Director, Human Capital and Administration, has indicated that the Authority is experiencing difficulty finding the right manpower in areas of Mechanical Engineering, Aircraft control and Telecommunications Engineers.
“Even though we had targeted 20% in our business plan, which we were able to meet, we intend to expedite the recruitment process, and are nonetheless optimistic that with the new recruitment being worked on it should be possible to have filled all the remaining posts by next year,” said Belayneh.