In its quest to reduce its dependency on the shareholder and taxpayers for aircraft maintenance works, Air Namibia started its own in-house maintenance department in 2011.
The maintenance is mainly for the Brazilian made Embraer Rear Jet (ERJ) 135 aircraft, the 37 seater aircraft that service the domestic and some regional routes. Maintenance of aircraft is a costly exercise and as a small airline, but Air Namibia ensures that its equipment are well serviced by accredited services providers mainly Airlink in South Africa and Lufthansa Technik in Germany.
The in-house maintenance department of Air Namibia was established with the help of Airlink (a South African company). In 2013, Air Namibia used Lanseria Jet Centre AMO (Aircraft maintenance organisation) approval for the release even though the work was done and carried out by Air Namibia engineers. It was in 2014 when Air Namibia got its own Aircraft Maintenance Organization. The Embraer Jets are very easy to maintain, reliable and safe equipment.
The in-house maintenance department is one of the milestones of Air Namibia thus far, considering the skill shortage in the country but the airline leadership managed to have at least fourteen (14) engineers and supporting staff such as 1 planner and 1 store personnel the team that ensure that the four (4) Embraer are fit for safe take-off and landing. The in-house maintenance is currently only for the ERJ’s and the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) scope of approval is line maintenance including A checks. The A check is a letter check given to the intervals which elapsed in every 500 flight hours. The maintenance department also takes care of the C check which elapses at every 5000 flight hours but regarding the C check the approval is not granted as yet, due to shortage of staff but in the future the department shall takes responsibility. The department covers three stations such as the Eros airport, Hosea Kutako International airport as well as Walvis Bay airport. The department has engineer(s) at each of these airports doing the line maintenance and technical dispatch.
Also covered in-house is the continuous Airworthiness monitoring. Air Namibia does its own monitoring using CAMP systems. This is software used for maintenance tracking, with this system in place, it assists us to track and maintain the aircraft according to the approved maintenance program. The maintenance components are tracked based on calendar, cycles or by hours. In some instances a task or component can be tracked by both either for example calendar or cycle in this case whichever comes first will apply. The maintenance program consists of tasks to be performed and their intervals. Planning is also a key component performed by a planner who runs the CAMP systems. In planning, we have to plan the best possible down time without compromising on safety.
Although the team is currently comprised of fourteen engineers, that is not the ideal number for the maintenance department. The envisaged plan is to have apprenticeship in the structure. In the past the department had three students from Ukraine and Russia who did their attachments with the department, currently the department has two young Namibians who are doing apprenticeship with the department. The leadership of Air Namibia will look for opportunities to enter into MoU’s with institutions of higher learning and tertiary institutions to best cooperate in number of ways to tackle the issue of skills shortage in Namibia.
Aviation is one sector which is still alien to so many in Namibia, and Africa in general, but as a national airline Air Namibia will work around the clock to ensure that Namibians take pride in their own affairs like it is done elsewhere.
Although the procurement of maintenance parts remain a bottleneck in terms of cost, Air Namibia leadership is proud that, it can saves some cents on the labour as it continues to maintain its Embraer jets in-house. Indeed a journey of millions kilometres starts with one step, and indeed this is a very good step in the correct direction for Air Namibia. Give it time, it will make a difference.