Uganda seeks tighter air traffic controls

Monday November 19 2018

Entebbe airport

Entebbe is Uganda’s only international airport, although plans to build more are underway. PHOTO | NMG 

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Uganda wants to amend its laws to allow its officials a free hand in inspecting all aircraft operating within its airspace and impose on-the-spot penalties.

The tighter controls are contained in proposals for a new Bill that will grant powers to the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority to recall an aircraft for inspection should that prove necessary.

Importantly, the Bill also provides for the director general of the CAA to recall an aircraft in flight, if serious security and safety issues are identified, or the aircraft is being used in contravention of the Act or it contains any matter that may be used as evidence in respect to an offence under the Act.

Recall of an aircraft mid-flight means that all scheduled travel related to that aircraft will be delayed.

“This law affects all aircraft operating in Ugandan airspace whether foreign or locally registered. It also affects Ugandan aircraft operating outside Uganda airspace,” reads a draft report.

The current law requires that the Civil Aviation Authority to first seek permission, in writing, from an aircraft operator and await a response before it inspects an aircraft.

The Civil Aviation Authority (Amendment) Act 2017, intends to harmonise the domestic laws with the International Civil Aviation Convention. It is in response to a 2014 audit by the international body that rated Uganda at 61.6 per cent compliance with international standards.

The low rating was attributed to weak regulations that compromised security and safety of civil aviation operations at all levels.

The Bill is currently before the Parliamentary Infrastructure Committee. A draft report from the committee shows that the director general will have their powers expanded to include issuing of certification of aircraft, certificate of air worthiness, certification of air navigation service provider and maintenance of quality services and standards in accordance with ISO 9001 requirements.

Although Uganda’s airports have been in operation for decades, the Civil Aviation Authority had not established an accident investigation unit; the amended draft report proposes a unit within the Ministry of Works and Transport that will handle accident investigations.

Experts argue that an authority will be unrealistic because of the low level of traffic at Entebbe International Airport. Entebbe is Uganda’s only international airport, although plans to build more are underway.

A new international airport is being developed in Hoima in western Uganda to service oil production activity in the Albertine Grabben area, which could significantly increase the number of aircraft using Ugandan airspace.

Uganda handles 1.62 million passengers a year, which is low compare with Kenya, which does six million or even Singapore, which established an airports authority only after it attained a 70 million passenger mark.