Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has provided $35 million (about K26 billion) for the rehabilitation, upgrading and improvement of radar surveillance system at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe.
The grant comes as a relief to government as it has been agonising over how to beat the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) 2020 deadline to have the facility refurbished or risk being blacklisted.
Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director in the Ministry of Transport and Public Works Alfred Mtilatila said on Friday a new radar system will be installed using part of the Jica grant as well as for the expansion of the terminal buildings at KIA.
He said the airport is operating without a functional radar surveillance system following the breakdown of the one installed in 1982 when the airport was constructed.
This renders the facility incompatible with prescribed operational aviation requirements; hence, the move by Icao to issue a warning of possible blacklisting if authorities do not address the concerns by 2020.
He said: “Presently, KIA requires a lot of attention not only in terms of infrastructure, but also capacity building. The airport was constructed in the early 1980s. Since then, we have not had meaningful infrastructure development.
“So, after over 30 years, the infrastructure that was erected that time has outlived its lifespan and required major rehabilitation to accommodate current requirements at the airport.
“Apart from the infrastructure itself, we are talking of buildings and equipment which was installed. Due to the technological advancements, there is need to upgrade some of the equipment so that the service meets international standards.”
The Malawi government has contributed K97 million as counterpart funding towards the preparatory works for the entire project.
Mtilatila said rehabilitation and upgrading of the facilities will enhance passenger facilitation, thereby boosting the tourism sector in the country.
Jica chief adviser on capacity development project for radar air navigation services at KIA, Hiroshi Mizumasa, said the purpose of the project is to develop capacity of the department to operate and maintain aircraft surveillance system.
He said the project will target air traffic controllers, electronic engineers and training instructors at DCA.
“Under the project, Jica will contribute training experts for all aspects which will cover costs of training courses outside Malawi, training equipment, including project office equipment, personal computers for production of training materials and others as necessary. On its part, the Department of Civil Aviation will provide counterpart personnel, office space and furniture and running costs for the project,” Mizumasa explained.
The project will run for two and a half years. n