More disruptions at Walvis airport

The withdrawal of navigational instruments causes chaos in bad weather.

01 August 2019 | Transport

Flights of three airlines to Walvis Bay had to be diverted to other airports due to bad weather, low fog and cloudy conditions causing poor visibility over the coastal area on Monday.

Sources said the conditions at Walvis Bay were “extremely foggy”, making it impossible for aircraft to land without the assistance of ground-based navigational instrument approaches recently withdrawn by the Namibia Civil Aviation Association (NCAA).

Flights by Air Namibia, SA Express, and SA Airlink were all affected. SA Airlink's marketing and sales manager Karin Murray said its aircraft was forced to return to Johannesburg after numerous attempts to land at Walvis Bay.

According to one source the SA Airlink aircraft circled the Walvis Bay airport three times in the hope that the skies would clear, but had to divert due to continuing bad weather. The Air Namibia and SA Express flights diverted to Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) outside Windhoek.

Unhappy passengers ranted about the inconvenience caused to them, accusing the airlines and the NCAA of incompetence.

The airlines said they cannot be held liable for the inconvenience, citing terms and conditions of air flight which absolve them from any liability in unforeseen circumstances such as bad weather.

The interim executive director of the NCAA, Reinhard Gärtner, reiterated that the authority had no choice but to withdraw the instrument approaches due to “possible legal implications”.

“We are engaging and exploring all possible avenues,” Gärtner said, adding that there was no indication when the situation would be normalised.

“We can reinstate the old instrument approaches as a temporary relief but that is not an option. We will go ahead and forge a solution,” Gärtner said.

Gärtner held an emergency meeting with transport minister John Mutorwa on Monday to discuss the matter, especially in view of the many visitors expected to land at Walvis Bay for the inauguration of the fuel storage facility at the Walvis Bay harbour this Friday.

It is understood that the NCAA was forced to withdraw the instrument approaches after “inconsistencies” such as illegal software from the suppliers were revealed.

Gärtner would not say who the suppliers were, saying the matter was sub judice.

He said the NCAA would now have to invite new tenders for instrument approaches to be installed at HKIA and the Walvis Bay airport.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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