Landing problems at Walvis

Cloudy weather has caused problems since navigation systems were removed.

26 July 2019 | Transport

SA Airlink has announced that its flight from Johannesburg to Walvis Bay on Monday could not approach the Namibian airport due to an absence of essential land-based navigational equipment.

It said when its plane reached Walvis Bay the weather conditions were such that an instrument approach was necessary. “Without the necessary airport navigational aids, the flight held its position overhead the airport and circled, waiting for the cloud to dissipate. After circling for some time, the aircraft diverted to Windhoek, refuelled, and then successfully landed at Walvis Bay,” Karin Murray of Airlink said. This comes after the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) withdrew all instrument approaches from the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) and the Walvis Bay airport on 15 July. Instrument approaches are procedures based on equipment mounted at airports to help pilots navigate safe landings in case of poor visibility.

Murray said Airlink would be able to operate normally at HKIA, which has an RNAV GNSS (Random Area Navigation Global Navigation Satellite System) approach in place.

However, she said, because Walvis Bay does not have the RNAV GNSS approach - or any other alternative to the withdrawn systems - Airlink will not be able to approach that airport in cloudy conditions.

“We are aware that the NCAA is in the process of designing and emplacing an RNAV GNSS approach at Walvis Bay, but there is no indication at this stage as to when this approach will be available. In the circumstances, Airlink will encourage that this process be expedited,” Murray said.

In the interim, she said, Airlink's flight will divert to Johannesburg, and if practicable, to Windhoek to take more fuel and attempt to approach the Walvis Bay airport again. The NCAA withdrew the instrument approaches as a precautionary measure. NCAA interim executive director, Reinhard Gärtner, said it is interesting that Airlink did not officially contact the aviation authority about the forced diversion.

However, he said the NCAA as a matter of priority is in the process to avail approved approaches at both airports with the first priority of Walvis Bay due to the possible adverse weather effects at that airport.

“We are aware of the potential inconvenience caused to the industry but had no option but to withdraw the previous approaches as indicated earlier,” Gärtner responded.

Gärtner had earlier explained that the NCAA withdrew the instrument approaches as a precautionary measure.

He then explained that it is an international standard that procedures be reviewed periodically to ensure they still meet the regulatory safety requirements.

Gärtner then added that the instrument landing system (ILS) and visual omnidirectional range (VOR) procedures are due to scheduled review in 2020, but that the NCAA has decided to do it now already, saying the best time of the year for the withdrawals is in the dry season, which is generally free of cloud and weather.


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