CAA Shares Blame for Air Uganda’s Troubles

Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)’s withdrawal of air operator’s certificates (AOCs) for airlines flying international routes has now claimed another victim. On Friday, Air Uganda announced the indefinite suspension of operations with immediate effect.

This affirms earlier suspicion that the regulators, with their actions hiding behind misleading claims that they were acting in the interest of aviation safety, are destroying aviation in Uganda.

In fact, new allegations are emerging that certain individuals could have developed an interest in re-launching the defunct Uganda Airlines.

This, to them, is seen as an opportunity to ‘eat big’, should those keen on this white elephant project succeed to milk government and the Ugandan taxpayers of the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars it would take to reestablish such an airline in this day and age!

Meridiana Africa Airlines (Uganda) Limited, which trades as Air Uganda, was the country’s only jet airline serving international routes. It was flying from Entebbe to Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Juba, Mogadishu, Bujumbura and Kigali.

Air Uganda was owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, until it received the ill-conceived directive from the UCAA to surrender their air operator’s certificate.

The certificate allowed them to operate three CRJ200 jets and they were Entebbe International airport’s number one airline in terms of daily flight numbers. All 231 staffs are now bound to stare at an uncertain future, possibly facing layoffs.In spite of initial assurances – empty assurances as it turned out – by the UCAA to expeditiously process the renewal application for an AOC, it has turned out a game of bureaucratic ping pong.

The regulators in fact are showing no sense of urgency, enjoying their weekends and regular working hours instead of working hard to resolve this issue. We should remember that this problem came after CAA’s imminent failure of an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit, where they only escaped being cited by pulling all AOCs valid for international routes.

As a result of Uganda Civil Aviation’s action, Air Uganda’s flights were removed from the electronic booking and reservations systems. All interline and code share agreements were suspended and so was membership of Air Uganda in African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA). And through insinuations, if not outright intended smears, the reputation of the airline was left in tatters.

I overheard one aviator say: “Playing around by raising question on Air Uganda’s safe operations is almost criminal after all, they are IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certified. Those who made such suggestions hopefully will face the consequences when they are sued, in an individual and institutional capacity, for the damage they caused with their attempted character-assassination.

I personally feel there is not one iota of truth in such allegations and the attempt to whitewash the CAA action has failed. They may dupe the public who perhaps do not understand the technicalities behind all of this but us aviators, they cannot fool. They are plain wrong and thankfully someone keeps pointing this out bringing the truth to light.”

One CAA mouthpiece was technically right to point out that it was, by law, the AOC, which mattered and not the IATA operational safety audit, which Air Uganda actually passed. But one can argue that that is probably another smokescreen.

Uganda’s reputation in the aviation world has taken a huge hit. The fact that regulatory staffs in the region are privately critical of Uganda’s CAA’s actions, just not g enough to openly comment on the follies of a fellow regulator, again speaks for itself. This is a damning indictment of those responsible in Entebbe for this travesty of aviation administration.

Aviators and aviation pundits are united in their assessment that the fault lies squarely with the UCAA. There is no amount of mitigating words that can alter the fact that they failed the aviation industry in Uganda.

The author is a correspondent of eTN Africa.

Source : The Observer

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