African Airports Urged To Improve Basic Facilities

Africa is experiencing the fastest growth rate in the aviation industry, but it still has the poorest safety record in the world. Delegates at an Airports Conference in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, have heard they need to focus on the basics such as good regulatory bodies, safety management systems and fire fighting services. Airports Council International Secretary General in Africa, Ali Tounsi, says this is due to a lack of resources and knowledge. Tounsi says excluding South Africa, many of Africa’s 200 airports struggle with a lack of money, equipment and skills.Meanwhile, South Africa has found that the implementation of airport management committees that includes all the various role players helps a great deal to ensure the smoother running of an airport. 

According to the latest International Civil Aviation Organisation figures, the nine commercial airline accidents recorded in 2013 in Africa, translate into the poorest safety record compared to the number of passengers transported.  

 Tounsi says 70% of ACI’s work in Africa is aimed at improving safety.   

“We have no resources, with a lack of material and lack of resources and lack knowledge and that causes a lot of accidents. This situation is not good for our continent and our mission in ACI is to try and reduce this number through a lot of programmes.”

US Federal Aviation Administration Deputy Director, James White, says African airports need to look at the basics.

“And so the basics for airports: safety management systems, an effective regulator that will certify the airport, basic aircraft rescue and fire-fighting service, trained staff. So those are the areas where I think there are opportunities for airports in Africa to make a lot of improvement.”

Durban’s King Shaka International Airport General Manager, Terence Delomoney, however, says such collaborative decision making can even help small airports 

Meanwhile, South African delegates have told the Airports Council International Conference that co-opting all the aviation role players into airport management has had significant benefits. These role players include the airports company, airlines, air traffic controllers and service providers.

 Assistant General Manager at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport, Kris Reddy, says such inclusive airport management committees are now in operation in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

“Our three main airports now have airport management centres, which are representatives of the industry. And together they collaborate and make decisions that are in the best interest of the airport and not necessarily for one particular entity.”

Reddy explains that airport aprons are congested, hazardous working environments where staff from various service providers has to work fast and efficiently to ensure the smooth flow of air traffic.

OR Tambo handles four to five flights a minute while some of the smaller African airports only deal with this number of flights a day.

 Durban’s King Shaka International Airport General Manager, Terence Delomoney, however says such collaborative decision making can even help small airports.

“It’s about the principle and the concept of how we collaborate. So, I think if we confuse it with technology and a lot of the infrastructure, then we’re not going to get it right. It’s just about finding a way of better working together.”

Reddy says the projected growth in African air traffic of 6% between 2010 and 2015 means that collaborative decision making cannot remain a buzz word only.