Failing to meet tech challenges in Africa aviation a myth – CEO

Cape Town – The perception of failing to meet the challenges brought about by technological changes, with specific reference to the issue of reliable equipment which may lead to reduced and/or poor maintenance by African air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and civil aviation authorities (CAAs), is a myth, Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) CEO Thabani Mthiyane said on Monday.

“We all know that ‘once equipment is installed, it is reliable and economical to maintain for just over two years. But nonetheless, it is a fact that our engineers, who are tasked with providing the necessary maintenance tend to be complacent,” he said.

Mthiyane stressed the issue of retraining to address this critical area of equipment maintenance, which has a huge impact on airspace safety.

He is also the Africa region chair of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO).

In his welcoming address at the 2017 CANSO Africa Conference in Morocco Mthiyane said the global aviation body has taken note of the fact that Africa has fifty four states and that only a few have taken membership.

“We need other states in Africa to join CANSO, and follow the example of our hosts, Morocco, who took a bold step and are now part of a collective, whose unwavering quest is to ensure safer skies,” said Mthiyane.

For him the good news is that almost all African countries will be completing the Aviation System Block Upgrades by 2018.

He said the role of human resources should be taken seriously for the successful implementation of technological evolution and the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, propelled by artificial intelligence.

South Africa, for instance, is currently assessing the impact of the Remote Tower Concept, both in terms of technology versus technology and technology versus human resources.

Strategic partnerships with industry, research and development institutions and academia are key for success, in his view.

According to CANSO global director general Jeff Poole, commitment and partnership are needed to ensure that Africa is ready to meet the expected surge in air traffic.

Poole said that new technologies such as automation, digitisation and space-based surveillance enable air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to make the leap to the latest systems without having to address legacy systems or build expensive ground-based infrastructure.

“There has never been a more exciting time to be in aviation and air traffic management in Africa. This continent has huge potential to develop, increase trading links, and grow economies but at the moment this is hampered by poor connectivity and a fragmented air transport system,” he said.

“There is a vital role for efficient air traffic management to facilitate increased connectivity, enable access to markets, and increase tourism. New and emerging technologies provide the opportunity to modernise air traffic management more efficiently and at lower cost than ever before. Industry and states need to work together to grasp this opportunity.”

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