Africa aviation players fault military for flight disruptions

Wednesday February 22 2017

Military jets fly over Nyayo National Stadium during the 52nd Jamhuri day celebrations last year. The aviation agency on Wednesday closed Nairobi’s airspace for military drills. PHOTO | FILE

Kenya military jets fly over Nyayo National Stadium during the 52nd Jamhuri Day celebrations on December 12, 2015. Some military drills force the closure of Nairobi’s airspace. PHOTO | FILE 

By Moses K Gahigi

African aviation operators have faulted the military and other security agencies for growing disruptions at airports, saying it’s bad for business.

“In other countries, the military fits within civilian operations of the airports but in Africa it’s the civilians to fit into the military operations, which is a problem” said Flora Kumama Wakoko, the chief traffic control officer at the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

The industry’s stakeholders, during the 5th Annual African Airport Expansion Summit in Kigali, said, although the problem is unique from country to country, the overriding issue is that it upsets airport operations.

They accused the military of being ‘secretive and stubborn’ and not sharing information on time, which ends up disrupting commercial flights.

“Military operations do affect airports from operating efficiently. For example, they disrupt commercial flights and cause major delays at airports,” Mercel Langeslag, the project manager at Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO), said, adding that “this needs to be addressed.” NACO is a Hague-based independent airport consultancy and engineering firm providing services to a number of airports in Africa.

“There is a critical need for civil-military coordination committees to create an understanding on both sides. This would minimise the element of surprise at airports” Ms Wakoko noted.

Bruno Boucher, from Lufthansa Consulting, said airport safety and security is about “planning, processes, technology and constant updating”, which is lacking in many airports in Africa and threatens to expose passengers to insecurities.

“Safety and security can only grow with commitment from all stakeholders, working on a clearly defined framework” he said.

Airport authorities were advised to establish regular tracking of data and actionable analysis, and to perform scheduled and predictive training and maintenance, to ensure security as well as offer enjoyable experience for the passengers.
A disconnect between airlines and airport authorities was also highlighted with stakeholders noting that this lack of cohesion was proving costly to both entities.

“Sometimes there is a lack of disclosure; stakeholders need to share information in times of unserviceability, we need to trust one another as an airport entity, in the region and Africa as a whole,” Ms Wakoko said.