THE Interim CEO of the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Reinhardt Gartner, said that he is confident that the country’s aviation sector will pass in the upcoming audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which ensures that the country’s aviation sector is in line with international safety standards.
Gartner made these remarks at a media briefing in which he discussed the role of the NCAA, challenges the authority faces and steps it has taken to strengthen the aviation sector.
Gartner stated that Namibia has a fairly sophisticated and diversified aviation industry compared to other African countries and scored 86% in compliance with its last ICAO audit.
“Aviation is a highly specialised field and sometimes it can be difficult for the NCAA to fulfil its mandate as it needs suitably qualified persons,” Gartner said, adding that while the NCAA is meant to have a staff compliment of 223, presently, only 148 staff members have been approved as the authority is currently still building on its human capital.
He, however, noted that it is a challenge as it is difficult to obtain suitably qualified persons, especially in areas of oversight in aviation, due to the fact that candidates are required to have 8 to 15 years’ experience and need to be licensed pilots.
“We just lost a specialised white body inspector (a person who inspects aircrafts) yesterday. The people we train keep getting soaked up by international airlines,” Gartner said.
He further stated that the labour market gap is further exacerbated by the fact that there is no aircraft maintenance engineering Vocational Training Centre in the country, leading to shortage of skills in the local market.
Gartner said that for the financial year 2020/21, the NCAA has invested a total N$3.9 million towards training.
“We need to meet obligations to ensure compliance with the ICAO audit. Six years ago we had Significant Safety Concern (SCC), and it took about 3 years to get back positive ratings. For example, if you do not have a qualified person to oversee Air Namibia, that could be labelled as a safety concern. I promised the Board and the minister that we would not get an SCC as long as I’m here. We know what the ICAO audit is going to inspect, it’s an open book test, and I think we are safe,” Gartner stated.
The NCAA was established in 2016, by Act 6 of 2016, to ensure safety and security of Namibia’s airspace in all respects.
The organisation holds oversight on the aviation industry and ensures compliance with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS).
The ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) focuses on 8 areas, which include: Primary Aviation Legislation and associated civil aviation regulations; Civil Aviation Organizational structure, Personnel Licensing activities, Aircraft Operations, Airworthiness of civil aircraft, Aerodromes and Ground Aids, Air Navigation Services and Accident and Serious incident investigations.
During an audit, ICAO may identify a ‘Significant Safety Concern’ with respect to the ability of the state to properly oversee its air operator’s airports.
ICAO does not blacklist, but only publishes the SSC’s on its website, which leads to blacklisting and International Airlines will stop flying into/out of and over the territory of Namibia.