… runway still a safety threat
In a letter sent to Namibia Airport Company (NAC) from the Air Namibia, the leadership at the airline threatens to suspend flights operations from Eros Airport for safety reasons.
The airport’s 62-year-old runway has been under scrutiny and growing safety concerns have forced President Hage Geingob’s presidential jet to land and take off from Hosea Kutako International.
“Air Namibia is seriously concerned about the condition of the runway at Eros Airport, to such an extent that we have come to the point we shall for safety reasons need to suspend our flight operations from this airport until the proposed reconstruction of the runway is completed,” said the airline’s Acting MD Mandi Samson in a letter in the possession of The Patriot.
The letter made reference to a recent incident where an aircraft emergency warning was triggered during the take-off run, highlighting that due to the unevenness of the runway, Air Namibia Quality & Safety divisions have recommended a termination of flights in and out of Eros Airport with the Embraer (E135) Aircraft (Domestic Routes).
Air Namibia and Airport Company are said to have in the past discussed the inevitability of having to undertake major reconstruction at Eros Airport.
NAC conceded that the plans for refurbishment are available and that Eros Airport would need to be closed to larger aircraft to accommodate the rigorous reconstruction of the airport.
In the letter, Air Namibia compellingly demands information as to when this proposed plan is to be inducted, saying this will enable the airline and the aviation industry operating to and from Eros Airport to make contingency plans and instigate re-location to the HKIA, with minimal disruptions to the traveling public.
As a user of the airport, The Patriot asked whether the state of the runways is a concern, the airline’s Corporate Communications Manager Paul Nakawa reiterated their concern.
“We are confident that Eros airport runway will be rehabilitated soon as a matter of urgency. In an event that Eros airport is not rehabilitated soon, there are options that we discussed with NAC,”said Nakawa.
He added; “If the runway is not rehabilitated, Air Namibia will have to move all domestic flights to Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA), as it is the right thing to do from a safety perspective.
The challenge we currently face at HKIA is that we do not have an existing base there, in terms of maintenance.
Air Namibia has informed the shareholder (government) and has subsequently applied for land near HKIA to enable maintenance to be done from there.
At present, relocation to HKIA as a temporary measure would also be a logistical nightmare in terms of maintenance, since Air Namibia uses the Eros Airport as a base for the ERJ fleet.
As the line ministry responsibly for major capital projects, Executive Director of the Ministry of Works and Transport Willem Goeiemann said work on the runway will only commence in the next financial year.
“Works on the runway will only start in the next financial year.
There is money budgeted for it but consultations, technical issues and submissions to the Central Procurement Board have caused delay. So all this will only be finalized in the next financial year,” said Goeiemann. The runway is set for an N$543 million upgrade.
In response to these queries NAC spokesperson Dan Kamati stated that, “the issue of the Eros Airport runway is a well documented one, one that has received attention of the highest order and to this end our principle shareholder, GRN made a commitment to fund the rehabilitation of the runway but due to budgetary concerns, the project has been postponed.
In the interim, NAC and other relevant stakeholders are working around the clock to ensure that safe and secure arrival and departures takes place at Eros Airport.”