NAVIGATIONAL aids at all Namibia’s airports are in such a state of disrepair that several domestic and international flights had to be cancelled as a result of the rainy weather currently experienced over large parts of Namibia.
Not only could international flights not take off or land, several domestic flights by commercial and private aviation operators had to be cancelled. Flights that had to be cancelled or diverted include those from EuroWings and Airlink.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) in an urgent letter to the Executive Director of the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) requested the Ministry of Works and Transport to repair or replace navigational aid used by pilots when landing in the dark or in cloudy conditions.
For the sake of safety, aircraft flying into Namibia from abroad are currently only able to land when the pilots can see the runways, even at the international airports at Windhoek, Walvis Bay, and Ondangwa.
According to AOPA, aircraft approaches under Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), are no longer supported nor authorised in Namibia, owing to the non-calibration of airport meteorological equipment and ground-based navigation aids (NAVAIDS) as well as the fact that the surveillance radar in the country has fallen into disrepair.
“The last remaining option to carry out instrument approaches into Namibian airports is no longer permitted nor legal, and that all aircraft are required to operate under Visual Flight Rules for landing and takeoff,” the letter states.
Besides the losses suffered by aircraft operators and inconveniences caused to passengers, AOPA said that the situation presents a severe safety hazard.
According to AOPA, pilots and operators have reported several incidents directly related to the inability to carry out approaches under Instrument Flight Rules and the NCAA and the Ministry of Works and Transport, that their non-compliance and negligence with their statutory function and responsibility to ensure the serviceability of all instruments at Namibian airports had already and will continue to result in an extremely serious safety hazard to the flying public, notwithstanding the negative impact on the aviation industry, tourism, and the economy at large.
The cancelled flights left passengers stranded at the Hosea Kutako International Airport while others had to change their travelling plans at the last minute.
“This is a significant safety risk and affects the already crippled aviation sector adversely,” the letter states.
According to AOPA, there has been no consideration for alternate means of compliance to mitigate the safety risk, negative financial implications and negative public perceptions due to non-service delivery.
“This situation was entirely avoidable and is indicative of the alarming state of dysfunction on the part of the regulators relating to aviation matters. Furthermore, it is an extremely embarrassing situation for Namibia that none of the state-owned airports throughout the entire country is able to support arrivals and departures under Instrument Flight Rules.”
AOPA urged the government to take immediate steps to ensure that the matter is dealt with expeditiously and to prevent a repeat of this situation through the restoration of good governance and management on the part of the aviation regulators.