The Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has experienced a decline of over 80% of air traffic due to reduced air travel, and therefore a decline in the collection of aeronautical fees caused by Covid-19.
Transport minister John Mutorwa said there is thus a need to recapitalise the NCAA financially while slowly recovering from Covid-19, and possibly at a later stage to introduce new complementary charges that will help reduce dependency on treasury.
Motivating the ministry’s budget of over N$1.3 billion in the National Assembly this week, Mutorwa requested N$ 125.7 million to be allocated for air transport administration.
The NCAA is a state-owned enterprise established in line with the Namibian Civil Aviation Act, Act 6 of 2016, which functions autonomously under a board of directors, appointed by the minister of transport.
The NCAA was formerly known as the DCA (Directorate of Civil Aviation).
The directorate of aircraft accident investigations has recorded a notable reduction in aircraft accidents and incidents in Namibia during the past financial year.
This reduction was attributed to intensive stakeholder engagements, monitoring and the evaluation of safety recommendations generated by this directorate.
The aircraft accident investigations programme aims to promote aviation safety through independent investigations into aircraft accidents and incidents.
“The outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic worldwide also had a negative impact on the operations of this directorate tasked to maintain a safe air transport system in Namibia,” Mutorwa stressed.
He said investigators were unable to maintain proficiency due to travel restrictions to undergo recurrent training, and this is envisaged to be finalised during the current financial year.
He, therefore, requested an amount of N$7.4 million to be allocated to the aircraft accident investigations programme.
As of November 2013, accident and incident investigations are separated from the NCAA to ensure that investigations are unbiased. Namibia’s chief accident investigator now reports directly to the works and transport minister.
Furthermore, the government air transport services aim to provide safe, secure and efficient air transport services to the most senior leaders of and in the government of Namibia.
According to the minister, the department no longer has access to the trading account, hence, an additional budget amount of N$68.5 million was requested to fulfill its obligations effectively and efficiently.
Although the NCAA provides safety oversight and air navigation services throughout Namibia, the challenges experienced with the transformation of the authority concern the shortage of skilled human resources in most technical areas such as airworthiness testing.
Mutorwa said the NCAA has offered bursaries to 12 navigation services students, six air information services students, and 33 air traffic control students. During the 2020/21 financial year, the ministry has completed the rehabilitation works of the Eros Airport runway and apron.
The ministry is also expanding the terminal buildings at the Hosea Kutako International Airport to alleviate congestion, as well as the rehabilitation of the Katima Mulilo (Mpacha) Airport runway.
On the meteorological services administration, he said there is an urgent need for replacements as the associated software and various critical components of these systems are obsolete and can no longer be maintained or repaired, even by the suppliers.
Aviation meteorological services for international air navigation are declared as critical services.
“These services, which cover a wide range of sectors, are also declared as essential services in terms of the Labour Act, and the Civil Aviation Act. Hence, it is of cardinal importance to replace all this outdated equipment to avoid a systems failure that could lead to non-compliance to local and international standards and regulations, and in the worst-case scenario a loss of lives and property,” he stressed.
Descending… Over 80% of air travel declined due to Covid-19.
Photo: Emmency Nuukala