Walter Nyamukondiwa Kariba Bureau
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) has initiated the process of revamping and modernising the country’s airspace by acquiring a new airspace management system.
This comes amid concerns that activities at some private airstrips were not being fully monitored, raising fears of smuggling as small aircraft fly in and out of the country.
It also comes as rudimentary methods are being applied to provide valuable data, including localised weather outlook for Kariba Airport as most equipment has broken down.
With full modern airspace management system, intermittent communication gaps in the existing system will be closed, while safety will be improved in the country’s airspace.
Briefing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development during a tour of Kariba Airport, CAAZ airports director Mr Tawanda Gusha said the process has since been activated.
“We are in the process of procuring an airspace management system, a full system, including radar surveillance, air navigation and communication systems,” he said.
“The system will cover the entire Zimbabwean airspace, making the controlling of traffic and utilisation of the airspace more efficient. That also enhances safety in our air space.” Asked about challenges with the current system, Mr Gusha said there were some pockets in the airspace where communication was irregular.
“There is intermittent communication in some pockets of the airspace which will be covered once the system has been installed, he said.
“I cannot give timelines as to when that will be done, but the process has been initiated already. The acquisition and actual installation is now entirely dependent on how long the procurement process will take.”
On private air strips where Kariba alone has about five, Mana West, Mana Pools, Gache Gache, Bumi Hills and Chirundu, Mr Gusha said the new airspace management system would help in monitoring of all strips.
“It will be easy to monitor the small private airstrips with a radar that covers the entire airspace and at this stage we cannot and will have to rely on the professionalism of airmen because everyone has to file a flight plan before they depart from wherever they are,” said Mr Gusha.
Parliamentarians noted that equipment at the control room at Kariba Airport was old, but air traffic controller Mr Ronald Chinamasa said aircraft were landing and leaving efficiently considering the low volume of traffic at the airport.
Committee chairperson and Shamva North legislator Oscar Gorerino said there was need to do more to modernise all the country’s airports.
It was also revealed that Meteorological Services Department’s (MSD) equipment at the airport broke down more than four months ago, leaving officials to rely on estimate data.