Shortage of staff hits civil aviation

January 14, 2015, 10:14am

Shortage of staff hits civil aviation

THE Director of Civil Aviation (DCA), Angeline Simana, says appointing Namibians to fill positions in the directorate will be at the expense of them not satisfying the minimum requirements despite their engineering experience.

In a strongly worded report, a copy of which is in the possession of The Namibian, Simana says the “regulatory authority has not even filled the most critical vacancies”.
The report was written as a response to queries by US-based A330 lessor Intrepid Aviation. 
Simana lists positions such as that of deputy director: safety and chief and inspector within the flight operations, personnel licensing, airworthiness and the aerodrome and air navigation services oversight departments.
She also says although there are five aerodrome inspectors working for the DCA, only two “meet the qualifications required to sustain a safety level as required”. The inspectors, according to the report, were sent “on formal classroom courses but they [still] lack the practical experience on the aircraft types in question”.
In addition, Simana says only two inspectors comply with the five-year International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) experience requirement for airworthiness domain “but not even specifically on the type of aircraft (A330) operated by Air Namibia”.
Furthermore, she points out, none of the three inspectors currently deployed in the flight operations division has the required experience and competency levels to certify, approve and carry out continued oversight over Air Namibia's airbus operations.
Shockingly, the collective flying time of these three flight operations inspectors only ranges between 450 and 3 000 hours on non-commercial flights - mostly small aircraft - with only one of them having started his training initiated by the DCA on the Air Namibia Embraer fleet recently.
In contrast to the DCA inspectors, Simana further points out, Air Namibia's top three A330 captains all have experience in excess of 15 000 hours.
The rule of thumb, Simana says, is that regulatory inspectors should at least have comparable qualifications to the people they oversee. However, Air Namibia's most senior captain's flying time is way more than that of the three DCA flight operations division.
Simana is on record as saying that should the contract of nine Icao experts, who have been helping out the DCA for the past six years not be renewed, the DCA will be engulfed in a crisis. 
This contract lapsed on 31 December but a temporary extension has been granted pending an endorsement of such an extension by Cabinet.
Erkki Nghimtina, the Minister of Works and Transport, who last year expressed dismay about the lack of progress the ICAO experts made over the past six years, will now be the one to convince his Cabinet colleagues to have mercy on the DCA and extend the Icao contract.
Meanwhile, it is understood that plans to transform the DCA into a parastatal face an uphill battle due to the many crippling challenges.
Simana earlier said that government does not make sufficient money available to attract and retain local experts. As a result, the presence and assistance of the Icao workers are non-negotiable.
However, there is concern that keeping the Icao experts in the country also comes at an exorbitant cost to government.
Simana was not willing to divulge how much the taxpayer has had to fork out to foot the salary bill of the Icao experts over their six-year tenure but stressed that it was a fraction of what government has forked out to bail out Air Namibia over the years.
The permanent secretary of the works ministry, Peter Mwatile, has said on a number of occasions that letting the Icao experts go will not give rise to more turbulence within the industry.
This schism between the DCA version and that of the ministry's accounting officer has resulted in civil aviation being hurled in increasing uncertainty.
Last week, The Namibian reported that President-elect Hage Geingob has been urged to order a commission of inquiry into civil aviation in the country as soon as he assumes office.
Denver Kisting The Namibian

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