A race against time

Fenata has warned that the new regulations could affect 60 000 air passengers who make use of private airstrips.

28 February 2019 | Tourism

Owners and operators of private airstrips are racing against time to ensure that their facilities comply with new civil aviation regulations that will bar commercial aircraft from landing at unlicensed airfields.

The regulations, which will become effective on 1 January 2020, are expected to affect 100 airfields. The regulations were supposed to be enforced from 1 January 2019 but the deadline was extended.

The Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations (Fenata) says it is necessary to allow commercial aircraft to land at private airfields.

Fenata had warned last year that the new regulations could affect 60 000 air passengers who make use of private airstrips.

According to the association, flights with light aircraft have become an increasingly important mode of transport for the tourism industry. Its chairman, Bernd Schneider, voiced concern that despite the extension of the deadline, it would still be difficult to comply with the new regulations.

“The process of licensing and registration is quite cumbersome and detailed and usually takes a few months. So even with the new date of implementation, we believe we are heading into some difficulties at the end of this year, as it seems to be virtually impossible to get all private airfields licensed and registered by the time the regulations come into effect on 1 January 2020,” said Schneider. Schneider had said in the past that these regulations would force most light-aircraft operators out of business, resulting in substantial job losses.

He also said that fly-in safaris formed a vital part of the Namibian tourism industry. Schneider pointed out that many lodges, especially those in remote areas, relied heavily on private landing strips to bring in customers.

According to him, the tourism industry had not been consulted. “We could have avoided the near-crisis situation at the end of last year due to the published regulations.”

Schneider added that despite problems being experienced in complying, the tourism industry was in full support of the new regulations.

“In general, I fully support a safer aviation environment in Namibia. I also fully support that there needs to be some form of registration. As such, we do not have a major concern with the actual regulations. The major concern that we did have last year was the implementation date,” he said.

The Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is not budging on the implementation of the new regulations. The acting executive director of civil aviation, Gordon Elliott, explained that the regulations were required to ensure a safer operating environment.

“The Civil Aviation Act of 2016 requires participants in the Namibian civil aviation system to hold aviation documents such as licences, certificates, approvals or permits to ensure that the airstrips and aerodromes under the jurisdiction of Namibia offer a safe operational environment in in line with Article 37 of the Chicago Convention on Civil Aviation, to which Namibia is signatory,” said Elliott.

“At minimum, commercial operators together with airstrip owners should conduct an aeronautical study, risk assessment and safety assessment to identify potential risks... and mitigation measures should be put in place to ensure a safe operational environment,” he added.

The president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Namibia, Hans Wiehahn, did not want to comment on the matter.

“We are presently in the process of consulting with the NCAA about the new regulations. As such, we prefer to refrain from public comment until matters have been resolved one way or the other,” he said.

“At this stage it would be unwise for us to jeopardise this process in any manner, as matters are at a sensitive stage,” Wiehahn added.


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