INTERNATIONAL Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has implored Zimbabwe to follow proper procedures to complete the aerodrome certification of the newly commissioned Victoria Falls International Airport.
By Fidelity Mhlanga
Aerodrome certification is aimed at ensuring that the facilities, procedures and personnel comply with prevailing regulations and that appropriate protocols are followed to minimise the risks associated with aircraft operations at the airfield.
Regional director of ICAO Eastern and Southern African Regional (ESAF) Office, Barry Kashambo, said this during the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) conference in Victoria Falls last week.
“ICAO congratulates the republic and people of Zimbabwe on the great achievement of the new Victoria Falls airport and we shall perform our duty to ensure the authorities follow the proper procedures to complete the aerodrome certification process as required,” he said.
ICAO works with the convention’s 191 member states and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.
Research shows the advantages of obtaining an aerodrome certification are manifold, ranging from economic advantages to operating efficiency advantages. However, the main advantage lies in the satisfaction of offering airlines and passengers the possibility of using an increasingly safe airport thanks to the operational safety management system’s maintenance.
It is highly advisable to make a significant investment to reach the objective of certifying an aerodrome, which can hardly be carried out by the airport’s personnel due to the daily work load it entails
The role of airline operators, suppliers, service providers, and regulators was critical in implementing the ICAO standards and recommended practices.
Managing partner of Ernst and Young Ethiopia and head of transaction advisory Zemedeneh Negatu said airlines are businesses, regardless of the ownership, therefore they must be run as business models.
“There are too many examples of African airlines going bankrupt due to bad governance (i.e.interference by governments, incompetent management),” Negatu said.
He added that many African airlines have weak balance sheets and operational performances and sub-optimal or no credit experience, thereby posing major challenges in the financing of African carriers.
There are reasons why African airlines must be run on a commercial basis, regardless of ownership (private or state owned).
African airlines are too small and therefore must create “bulk” by merging and/or creating alliances to enhance their long-term viability.
“The days of “standalone” African airlines aiming to be “long haul trunk carriers” and “flag bearers” is no longer realistic. The industry is too globalised, rapidly changing, highly safety conscience, highly regulated and too capital intensive,”he said.
African airlines need hundreds of new airplanes in the next 20 years costing more than US$70 billion.
While there is still a possibility of three major airline groups in Africa by 2020, South African Airways and Kenya Airways need to make significant strategic shifts to their current operational performances to remain major profitable carriers by 2020.
Poor airport infrastructure such as lighting and navigation equipment makes airline operations expensive in Africa, said Negatu.
Very few airports in Africa have 500 000 passengers per year, the level needed to make them viable.
Charges for landing, flying and handling, according to Negatu, are high compared to the US and Europe, making airline operations expensive in Africa.
“If the EU has Open Skies within Europe and the US, why can’t there be ‘Africa Open Skies’ for airlines from African Union (AU) member countries?” he queried.