Tanzania`s airspace will remain loose for another two weeks following the confirmation by the authority that the controversial radar that was purchased at an inflated price amounting to Sh70 billion has collapsed since August 3, this year.
The failure leaves Julius Nyerere International Airport and the country’s airspace under the control of what the authority termed ‘procedural control—raising concern about air traffic safety.
According to aviation experts, procedural control is a method of providing air traffic control services without the use of radar. It is used in regions of the world, specifically sparsely-populated land areas and oceans, where radar coverage is either prohibitively expensive or is simply not feasible.
The system may also be used at very low-traffic airports, or at other airports at night when the traffic levels may not justify staffing the radar control positions, or as a back-up system in the case of radar failure.
The failed radar was purchased from UK’s British Aerospace Engineering (BAE System), and whose transaction was tainted by corruption, following revelations that the middleman, Saliesh Vithlani pocketed $12 million in commission and bribery monies.
Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority yesterday confirmed that the radar had collapsed since August 3, this year, adding that the country’s airspace would continue to be without radar for the next two weeks – ostensibly pending the availability of spare parts from BAE System in UK.
Speaking to journalists yesterday in Dar es Salaam, TCAA’s Director General, Fadhili Manongi said the radar suffered a power supply system failure, making it ineffective.
Despite the failure, the airport was still in full operation, according to the Director General, with local and international flights to and from Julius Nyerere international airport, forced to rely on the outdated technology of procedural control—amid reports that some international flights would cancel their service pending the restoration of the ill-fated radar.
Fadhili Manongi told reporters in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the power supply system, whose unit required to supply power voltage in different parts of the radar broke, went down on Aug 3.
He said the Authority has placed a new order for the new accessory at BAE System in London for replacement. However, he said the second option was to take the damaged equipment to South Africa for maintenance.
“Though we have ordered for the new part from London, the damaged accessory has been taken to South Africa for maintenance. We thought it was wise to explore both alternatives,” he said.
While the Manongi allayed public fears, there was no problem at the airport and that things would come to normal after two weeks, sources who preferred anonymity at the Airport had different views, saying Air traffic control personnel faced difficulties in controlling Aircraft, because they were not able to see any incoming Aircraft in order to separate them before they landed due to lack of radar.
The Aircraft controllers said that they banked on estimation, and sometimes they would be forced to separate the plane while they were still very far to avoid collision mid-sky, which delayed their landing at the Airport.
According to DG, the damaged spare part costs about 40 million Tanzania shillings and had been in place for the past twelve years since the controversial radar was bought in 2000.
According to him, while both two options are being sought, the Air traffic control is being carried out through procedural means by well trained Air traffic controllers.
“The authority conducts weekly, monthly and quarterly maintenance, it was in the course of doing monthly maintenance on Aug 3 that we found the power supply system was not working,” he said.
He said that after learning that the power supply system had been damaged, the Authority decided to issue a notice to Airmen, an act of notifying the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) about the problem so that they could be aware that the radar at the Airport was not functioning.
“We did it immediately, so that any body flying into this country knows about the problem, we have not incurred any cost, our aircraft controllers are experienced and things are going smooth at the Airport,” he said.
Minister for communication and transport Dr. Mwakyembe could not be reached for comments