General News of Thursday, 7 February 2013
In spite of reported challenges
-By A A Yayra
The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has stated that air transportation in the Ghana remained the safest mode of transportation and debunked reports that the country’s airspace was not safe for airlines, especially local ones.
This was contrary to reports reaching The Al-Hajj suggesting that the current state of Ghana’s airspace provides a more alarming insight into the inherent dangers in flying local airlines in the country.
The Al-Hajj received reports from pilots who fly local airlines to the effect that the aviation industry is being bogged down by a range of ills from obsolete communication equipment, ‘epileptic’ or non-functional radar, lack of personnel, prolonged delay in responding to distress calls, poor coordination of effort coupled with repeated conflicts in the information disseminated to the pilots.
But in an exclusive interview with The Al-Hajj, the Director General of GCAA, Air Commodore Kwame Mamphey, ably assisted by a consultant of the authority, Dr Steve Nyakotey Kwao, the Director of Air traffic Services, Albert Taylor and an official of the Ghana Metrological Service, Amos Narh noted that despite some challenges facing the aviation industry, “air transportation in Ghana is still the safest mode of transportation. Our airspace is very, very safe”
Touching on the ills of the Ghana Metrological Service, Mr Amos Narh noted that “it is true that we are facing challenges; you can’t deny the obvious but all these things are as a result the usual lack of funds for state institutions in a developing nation like Ghana.
He confirmed reports stamped upon by The A-Hajj that with the exception of Accra, there are no weather forecasters in the Tamale, Kumasi, Takoradi and Sunyani airports, but was quick to explain that “the control tower in Accra has oversight over all the other airports…we have forecast and observation; these are two different things…even with the forecast, we have dependent and independent forecast…Accra is an independent forecast so is able to handle the other airports, but for observation there are officials at all the airports to do that”
“This is not to say the services that Ghana Metrological Service provides is in line with international standards, because to me international standards, you must have forecasters at all the airports, but as at now we don’t have that in place”
This declaration by Mr. Narh confirmed an investigation by The Al-Hajj which uncovered that, apart from the KIA, the Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale and Sunyani airports have been operating without weather surveillance radars and weather reports from Metrological forecasters.
The Al-Hajj gathered from pilots flying local airlines in the country that they fly to Kumasi, Sunyani, Takoradi and Tamale at their own risk without proper or no weather reports, hence putting the lives of over hundreds of passengers in dangers.
What is accounting for the inability of officials at the various Metrological offices aside Accra to provide pilots with weather reports is as result of lack of basic equipments like thermometers, measuring cylinders, barometers, personnel, vehicles for running errands and other necessary equipments.
As a result of the absence of such basic equipments, The Al-Hajj gathered that, officers at the various Metrological offices outside the capital city are unable to transmit weather data to Accra; a report connoisseurs of the aviation industry says is vital, especially to track whether the airspace will be conducive for a pilot to fly to that particular part of the country.
The pilots revealed that that the satellite pitcher at the briefing room in Accra which provides pilots with information on the weather every half an hour has broken down for over a year.
More ominous, however, is the use of naked eyes by officials at the various airports to read the weather which is then communicated through a telephone call to pilots. Our information is that, due to the disturbing nature of the situation of which officialdom pays no attention to, various pilots who have the means to afford ipads use it to get their own weather reports, and those who don’t have such expensive gadget rely on telephone calls.
Reacting to these reports, Commodore Mamphey noted that the Ghana Airport Company has rolled out programs to ameliorate some of the challenges facing the aviation industry.
“The Kumasi, Tamale, Sunyani and Takoradi airports operates for only 12 hours a day because of their runways don’t have street lights, but under the GAC rehabilitating program, the walk way of Kumasi airport will soon have lights” he added
On the issue of constant interference of Ivorian tower frequencies with that of Ghana, Commodore Mamphey explained that “Ghana and Ivory Coast uses the same frequency and during harmattan season the frequencies do sometimes interfere…it is just like TV signals, during seasons like this we receive TV signals from other countries…that is beyond human control, but when it get worse, what we do is to check our machines whether they are transmitting beyond the required length”
Another revealing report The Al-Hajj gathered was that the country’s airspace is dotted with waning communications gadgets such that air traffic controllers and pilots now have extreme difficulty in reaching one another.
Frightening as it may seem, there are several cases where aircraft enter into Ghana’s airspace unnoticed until neighboring airspace like Nigeria, Cote de ’Ivory etc notifies officials in Ghana through telephone calls.
But in a sharp response, the Director of the Air Traffic Control, Albert Taylor stated that their activity is rated one of the best in the sub-region, however, when there are challenges, it is dealt with immediately.
He added that, his outfit is working assiduously to at least right all the wrongs bedeviling their operations, but assured that air transport in the Ghana remains the safest.