KIA becomes safe haven for Int’l. Airlines …as Harmattan in sub region wreaks havoc

Kotoka International Airport (KIA) has become a safe haven for international flight using the West African Region to various locations as the continent experienced some bad weather conditions.

Since last Wednesday, some parts of the continent have been battling poor visibility due to harmattan, slowing airline operations. Domestic and Regional operations where greatly affected, and in some cases airline bookings were halted.

The Air Traffic Control unit of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) was however very busy as it had to guide unexpected aircraft to safe landing at the airport. The KIA has become the preferred destination for many airlines due to its functional Instrument Landing System (ILS) and the state-of-the-art Terminal 3.

Ghana’s ILS is able to guide pilots vertically and horizontally to the runway with a ground visibility of 700 – 800 meters from the ground. Since Wednesday more than five international airlines diverted to Ghana to seek refuge and moved after good visibility.

Emirates Airline, British Airways, Rwanda Air, Quarter Airways, Delta Airline and Africa World Airline were among those who had to divert aircrafts to the KIA. Almost all these airlines where heading to Nigeria.

Nigeria ILS challenges

According to reports in Nigeria, despite the recent installation of the Category 3 Instrument Landing System (ILS), by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), to aid seamless landing at the Lagos airport during the harmattan period airlines found it difficult to land their aircraft due to poor visibility.

Sources in Nigeria believe the ILS is not functioning to its full capacity due to a rush in installing the gadget. The new ILS according to stakeholders in Nigeria cannot work in isolation of the lights which were supposed to have been upgraded by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). This has resulted in a lot of backlash to the Nigeria Authorities as the state lost huge revenue to Ghana.

Ghana ILS benefit

The development brought in huge revenue as all the diverted aircrafts had to pay for using Ghana’s facilities; it also brought some pressure on KIA’s facilities. Many of the International Airlines where carrying large numbers of about 400 passengers who had to be processed at the Terminal 3 and lodged into hotels awaiting clear weather for take-off to their destination.

Parking space at the KIA came under a little pressure during the period as well. The situation was well managed by the Air Traffic Control Unit as it was able to receive all the aircrafts that requested to land in Ghana.

Director of the Air Traffic Control Unit, Edward Baah told the B&FT that the KIA has done well to manage the situation. “We have kept the situation under control. We are not in normal times. The situation will persist for a while so we have set up adequately to ensure we manage to guide as many aircrafts that would request to land here safely,” Mr. Baah said.

He intimated that, “Ghana has the facilities and competent staff. Our Air Traffic Service is also one of the best in the world. It’s not surprising that we are getting all these aircrafts diverting to Ghana. This is not peculiar to Accra. It’s global. Other continents are also facing it. It’s not only during harmattan. There are times the weather makes it impossible to fly so the airline must make a decision to land and be safe”

“All the above, together with the upgrade of KIA runway, parking stands and the new terminal 3 have worked together to make KIA the preferred destination in the subregion for the airlines. Aviation is a driver of the global economy and contributes 2.7 trillion USD which is 3.6percent of the Global GDP and creates 65.5 million direct and indirect jobs globally.

The government’s policy to make KIA an aviation hub and the preferred destination is in the right direction and will have a positive impact on Ghana’s economy,” Mr. Baah added.   

Other gadgets facilitating the operation of the GCAA is the Monopulse Secondary Surveillance Radars that enable one to see, track, monitor and control all aircrafts flying in Ghana’s airspace; Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures that gives direct routing, direct arrival and departure procedures into and out of the airports to ensure that aircraft bum less fuel and minimize C02 emissions into the environment. 

The GCAA has advised airlines and operators to strictly comply with its Directives and the Standards and Recommended Practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) pertaining to reduced visibility conditions.

The Regulator has assured the general public of its commitment to maintaining the highest standards of aviation safety in the country.

Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAAs) vision is to be a world class regulatory and air navigational service provider. In terms of the provision of regulatory services, Ghana scored almost 90percent in International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Audit last year on the country’s effectiveness in the provision of regulation and safety oversight over operators and service providers; this was the highest score in Africa. 

The GCAA has also invested in systems, equipment and training of personnel to ensure the provision of a safe, secure and efficient air navigation services by installing state-of-the-art Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) systems at the KIA and light Information Region (Airspace). 

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