Chileka International Airport (CIA) in Blantyre is facing a fire engine crisis as its only engine develops faults almost every week because it is old.
According to civil aviation requirements, a plane cannot depart or land at the airport without a functional fire engine, the development has compelled the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) to use Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and Blantyre City Council (BCC) engines.
But a few weeks ago, the MDF fire engine also developed a fault, forcing the airport to rely solely on BCC.
In an interview on Monday, Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera confirmed that the only fire engine at the airport develops faults regularly as the machine is old.
“We have indeed been having problems at Chileka International Airport with fire engines. The other time we really had no fire engine we had to borrow from BCC.
“We always have BCC in the event we need support, so city [councils] in Lilongwe and Blantyre are always there to support our fire department in the airports,” he said.
Chakwera said government is in the process of procuring new fire engines for both Chileka and Kamuzu International Airport through developmental partners.
“We plan to buy new machines which are estimated at about K300 million per fire engine. Already we have the project, supported by the European Investment Bank which is both for Chileka and Kamuzu International airports. Under that project there are a lot of security and safety equipment to be bought and the fire engine is part of that procurement,” he said.
BCC chief executive officer Alfred Chanza in a separate interview said the council’s fire engine has been helping Chileka Airport since April this year.
“This poses a threat as the council has inadequate engines,” he said.
A BCC fire department official said the council has nine fire engines of which only three are working.
In an interview yesterday, fire safety expert Chris Gondwe said it is a disaster for an airport to have no permanent fire engine.
“When there is no fire engine at the airport it is a disaster. The best thing is to lobby from government that they should look into that area,” he said.