Felex Share Senior Reporter—
Air Zimbabwe (Airzim) will continue flying various European routes contrary to reports by some sections of the media that the airline had been banned from the Euro zone due to safety concerns. It emerged yesterday that it was only the airline’s two long haul aircraft that have temporarily stopped from servicing a few European routes until Airzim addresses two concerns raised by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) operator audits.
EASA gave Airzim the thumbs up on 10 of the 12 safety items, which needed to be addressed during the airline’s presentations in Brussels, Belgium last month.
EASA had picked the 12 deficiencies last year.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo, said Airzim with the support of Government, was working towards addressing the concerns before the European Union Commission meets again in November.
“It should be noted that the ban is on two specific aircraft that fly long haul to Europe,” he said.
“The airline has not been banned from flying into Europe. If we correct that the ban on the two planes will be lifted. The previous management was found wanting on the way they maintained those two. It’s not politics at play but its set conditions on those aircraft which we have to correct. It is good for Air Zimbabwe, these are some checks and balances which are for our benefit.”
The European Union in 2014 enacted new safety requirements for all foreign operators flying into any of the bloc’s destinations.
The regulations require operators to obtain what is termed Third Country Operator (TCO) Approval.
The approval involves the inspections of the operators’ safety related systems, processes and procedures to ascertain if they meet the standards specified in the EU regulations.
Dr Gumbo said the blacklisting was not peculiar to Zimbabwe alone as other airlines had met the same fate before.
“It’s a routine thing where we have to comply with set conditions,” he said. “What happens in Europe is that they created conditions, which they wanted other airlines to satisfy when flying across Europe and it is your responsibility as a player to go to them and say this is how we stand and then they look at it and say you lack this and that correct it before we allow you to fly into Europe.”
He went on: “They changed their conditions and unfortunately the Air Zimbabwe old management went for that examination when they were not prepared. They failed and the new management was invited to Belgium and assured the European Union what they are doing to correct those areas. They made presentations on April 26 responding to 12 areas and they were cleared on 10 items and asked to correct the remaining two.
“These included computerisation of our systems as Air Zimbabwe regarding maintenance. We have been operating on a manual basis and the second item had to do with improving our radar system, which has been down. These are two major areas we are working on such that by November we are ready. We are happy that we are meeting set standards before we start our operations between Harare and London and other destinations in Europe.”
The EU Commission—which updates and publishes the list often—said it would consider safety audit requests from any airline seeking removal from the blacklist.
“Where an airline included in the community list deems itself to be in conformity with the necessary technical elements and requirements prescribed by the applicable international safety standards, it may request the Commission to commence the procedure for its removal from the list,” it said in statement published on its website.
Dr Gumbo said his Ministry, with the assistance of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, had embarked on an “intensive computerisation programme of all its systems and processes.”
“We have also engaged the services of internationally reputable consultancy companies to assist with the process,” he said.
“We are working on funding modalities that will see us procuring the Harare radar surveillance system and ground air communications and air navigation systems to ensure compliance to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards so as to guarantee safety and security in the Zimbabwean airspace.”