Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

$15 million needed for air traffic control systems

By Precious Maphosa

About $15 million is needed to re-equip the country’s air traffic communications and surveillance systems so as to enhance the safety and efficient movement of aeroplanes, an official said.

Air Traffic Controllers Ms Tatenda Makundo (seated) her Supervisor Mr Fanuel Chinyavuda, and a colleague Allan Manema share a lighter moment in the control tower at JMN international airport

In an interview with Sunday Business, Air Traffic Controllers Association of Zimbabwe (Atcaz) president Mr Evans Makuku said most of the country’s aviation communication and surveillance systems were obsolete and needed to be replaced with modern technologies.

“The equipment, particularly radio communication system has seen its better days. It is now old and breaks down frequently and this negatively affects effective, efficient and smooth delivery of service.

“The surveillance system will reduce delays and shortens routes because controllers can give aircraft more direct routings to aircraft movement. This saves time and reduces fuel usage for the benefit of aircraft operators,” said Mr Makuku.

He said there was a need for the procurement of a Secondary Surveillance Radar at a cost of about $10 million as well as an Automatic Dependency Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B) at an estimated cost of about $4 million.

Mr Makuku also lamented skills flight which has seen most air traffic controllers seeking greener pastures in other countries over the years, owing to deplorable working conditions and poor remuneration.

“Staff shortage is another issue, this could have been solved when a new Air Traffic Control simulator was purchased but then progress is very slow because the training school is also under-staffed. There is only one qualified instructor and one chief of training making them two,” he said.

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development chairperson Mr Dexter Nduna said lack of strategic infrastructural investment in the aviation sector has resulted in the country falling behind the regulatory and compliance curve.

“Antiquated ground to air communication systems lack primary and secondary radar facilities, which has resulted in Zimbabwean airspace being deemed a high risk. The only available surveillance systems are in Botswana and Zambia that we as a nation depend on. An independent committee needs to be established to look into the bungled procurement of radar facilities,” he said. Sunday News