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Opinions of Thursday, 8 May 2014

Columnist: Adjekum, Odadie Kwasi Okatakyie

President Mahama, Please be advised

Kumasi Airport (DGSI) cannot operate in the night/bad weather without Runway Lights!!!!!!!

President Mahama during his three-day visit to the Ashanti Region over the weekend addressed teeming supporters of the NDC at the office of the Ashanti Regional Coordinating Council. In his address, he said: “Planes can land morning, afternoon and evening at the [Kumasi Airport]; we have also brought in new equipment to manufacture shoes for soldiers [at the Defence Industries Holding Company Limited (DIHOC)]. But there is an Akan proverb which says no matter how nice the dance of the fowl is, it never impresses the hawk – when the fowl dances for the hawk, the hawk never find it beautiful.” (Citifmonline).

I would not like to get into the politics of his comments but will like to address some erroneous comments that the President was purported to have made concerning the works that has been carried out at the Kumasi Airport and its implication for aviation development in Ghana. I found it rather deceptive and bewildering for the President to have made such a statement. Either he was not well briefed by his transport minister and aviation experts or he decided on the altar of political expediency to garner some cheap at the expense of aviation development in Ghana. Now I would like to point out that it is very misleading for any one to think that in the present state and condition of Kumasi Airport, it would be able to handle air traffic at night because an instrument landing system (ILS) had been installed. I would not like to get into the mundane technical intricacies of how the ILS is set up or works ,but will like to give readers a basic understanding of how the system works and why the President’s comments is more political than factual/ professional.

Instrument landing System (ILS)
When using the ILS, the pilot determines aircraft position primarily by reference to instruments. ILS aids the pilot in very low visibility conditions and night to safely manoeuvre and acquires the runway environment during the approach and landing phase. It also ensure aircraft optimal performance, by giving clear guidance on flight path angle (azimuth) and lateral deviations from the centre line of the runway. This gives the pilot the best profile to ensure accurate speed/height ratio and energy management.
The ILS consists of:
a. The localizer transmitter;
b. The glide path transmitter;
c. The outer marker (can be replaced by an NDB or other fix);
d. The approach lighting system.
ILS is classified by category in accordance with the capabilities of the ground equipment. Category I ILS provides guidance information down to a decision height (DH) of not less than 200 ft. improved equipment (airborne and ground) provide for Category II ILS approaches. A DH of not less than 100 ft. on the radar altimeter is authorized for Category II ILS approaches. The ILS provides the lateral and vertical guidance necessary to fly a precision approach, where glide slope information is provided. A precision approach is an approved descent procedure using a navigation facility aligned with a runway where glide slope information is given. When all components of the ILS system are available, including the approved approach procedure, the pilot may execute a precision approach.

Various runway environment lighting systems serve as integral parts of the ILS system to aid the pilot in landing. Any or all of the following lighting systems may be provided at a given facility: approach light system (ALS), sequenced flashing light (SFL), touchdown zone lights (TDZ) and centreline lights (CLL-required for Category II [Cat II] operations.) In order to land, the pilot must be able to see appropriate visual aids not later than the arrival at the decision height (DH) or the missed approach point (MAP).

I would like to know whether the Kumasi Airport ILS has been calibrated in conformity with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and recommended practices (SARPs) annex 14 ( Aerodromes)? Were the calibrations of the ILS done by recognised entities with requisite expertise and technology to ensure fidelity of the system? Has the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority included the new ILS in our Aeronautical Information Publications (AIP)? Have any of the commercial vendors like Jeppeson charted it for use by air operators? These are some of the issues that need clarification before we start the fun fare.

Weather Observation and Reporting
I know that in Kumasi like most of our airports ( I stand for correction) ,the weather observer simply "use experience and judgement to peer into the murk", trying to identify landmarks at known distances from the observation point. This method is rather inaccurate; therefore, instrumentation has been developed to improve the observer's capability. The instrument designed to provide visibility information is called a transmissometer. It is an important component for inclement weather operations and it measures Runway Visual Range (RVR). They are intended to indicate how far the pilot can see along the runway in the touchdown zone. Runway visual range is not reported unless the prevailing visibility is less than two miles or the RVR is 6,000 ft or less. This is so because the equipment cannot measure RVR above 6,000 ft. When it is reported, RVR can be used as an aid to pilots in determining what to expect during the final stages of an instrument approach. Instrument approach charts state the advisory values of visibility and RVR.

Runway visual range information is provided to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) and it is passed routinely to the pilot when conditions warrant. Ground visibility will continue to be reported and used in the application of take-off and landing minima. At runways with a transmissometer and digital readout equipment or other suitable means, RVR is used in lieu of prevailing visibility in determining the visibility minima unless affected by a local weather phenomenon of short duration. I want to know if Kumasi Airport (KSI) has reliable weather capabilities like a resident meteorologist and equipment like the transmissometer to augment inclement and night operations?

Runway Conditions
The runway at KSI even though it is claimed has been resurfaced is still not level and My research from operators who use the airport, claim that even though the runway has been resurfaced, it is still undulating it is and that will have adverse effect on aircraft operations and performance. I would expect that if we really want to get the KSI to international standards, nothing short of a grooved and drainable runway will be adequate. This is very important since it rains a lot in Kumasi. The current asphalt will not best due to the high temperature/moisture conditions in Kumasi, coupled with the high rain output. I would humbly recommend a possible extension of the runway to about 7500 feet from the present 6502 feet, at the Runway 02 end to enable more effective utilization by medium category jet transport aircraft like the Boeing 737 series.

Through the brilliance of our transport and aviation experts, we have an ILS without runway lights and now we have a President touting it as an achievement worth appreciating by the people of Kumasi. We must learn to separate professionalism from politics and allow projects to be completed before we try to make fanfare and political capital out of it. Sometimes the utterances of our politicians put our professionalism into a circus stand of ridicule. We are perceived from the international arena as a bunch of jokers who cannot get our acts together. Those who advised the President that Kumasi Airport can handle air traffic in the night and under all conditions, because we now have an ILS, should bow their heads in shame. Let us get all the components for safe airport operations in Kumasi into place and then with pomp and pageantry, we can proclaim to the whole world that Kumasi is ready for night operations. Please Mr President be well informed.
Odadie Kwasi Okatakyie Adjekum
kadjekum@yahoo.com