Chileka International Airport in Blantyre, condemned by South African Airways (SAA) safety auditors last week, has been a target of government initiated safety interventions projects which have not materialised since 2010, Weekend Nation can disclose.
International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) in 2013 asked Malawi to comply with international safety standards after a safety audit had revealed that an effective implementation (EI) of a safety oversight system was 34 percent out of the internationally recommended standard of 60 percent.
Five years down the line, government has failed to implement Icao’s recommendations that including resolving Significant Safety Concern (SSC) in the area of aircraft operations which was highlighted as a key concern.
While government documents show several safety projects going on at the airport, during a visit to the country’s second largest airport, we found broken parameter fence, a potholed runway, broken firefighting equipment and ambulance, no clinic and unfinished terminal building.
Chileka Airport contributes about 40 percent of the airport total revenue averaging at K5 billion annually.
Weekend Nation has established that in 2015 the European Investment Bank (EIB)announced agreed to support the K30 billion (44 million euro) investment programme to improve aviation safety at the country’s two main airports
In the announcement EIB said the money was for the supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of aviation safety and security equipment and design, build and commissioning of airport infrastructure as well as the supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of aviation safety and security equipment and infrastructure for Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe and Chileka International Airport.
Reads the EIB statement made four years ago: “Using the EIB financing agreed today the airport safety initiative is expected to include acquisition of new ambulances and fire engines, as well as construction of a new fire station at Chileka Airport.
“Once the project is complete, aircraft using Chileka will for the first time benefit from an Instrument Landing System.” .
Apart from the intervention from EIB, the government was also expected to initiate a total resurfacing of the runway and rehabilitate the terminal building, among others.
In an interview on Wednesday, Chileka Airport commandant Dixie Kwatani confirmed that there have been a number of projects that were supposed to be carried out at the airport but the status of the projects could best be explained by the Ministry of Transport as most of the projects were government-initiated.
“The EIB project implementation is underway. The project will be implemented component by component, the process of indentifying suppliers for acquisition of firefighting vehicles and assorted items including ambulance have started,” he said.
However, he said the equipment at the airport—firefighting equipment and ambulance—were functional.
“Probably SAA auditors’ expectations were different, but the equipment are in functioning condition,” he said.
On the runway, Kwatani said management has spent time and money filling potholes for the airport to be functional despite the rehabilitation of the runway of the country’s oldest international airport being long overdue.
The EIB loan documents state that the delivery of four airport’s major fire fighting vehicles were to take 32 weeks, one airport medium fire fighting vehicles was to take 32 weeks, two airport ambulances was to take 16 weeks and various assorted airport rescue and fire fighting equipment was to take 16 weeks.
But delivery is yet to take place after over 100 weeks, a development Ministry of Transport spokesperson James Chakwera admitted was due to administrative tasks that needed to be taken in fulfilling the procurement and other requirements of the European Investment Bank.
“Most of these tasks have now been completed and the ministry is looking forward to receiving the money from the bank. Owing to the urgent need, government had requested the EIB to have the component on the acquisition of fire fighting equipment. The fire engines, four major and one medium, have already been manufactured by now.
“We are waiting for disbursement from EIB so that final payment can be made to get the vehicles delivered,” he said. n