New Vision (Kampala)

East Africa: Regional Civil Aviation Safety Agency Gets New Home

The East African Community Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA), is ready to elevate aviation in the region to international standards by bridging the gaps in place. The agency was established as a selfaccounting institution of the East African Community.

"The accession of Rwanda and Burundi to the EAC, however, means that their aviation regulations and guidance material are destined to be harmonised to the other member states. This is an ongoing process in which the agency is actively involved," reveals CASSOA executive director Barry Kashambo.

"Besides that development, one of our major achievements since inception, has been the harmonisation of regulations and development of guidance materials which have been promulgated in all the Partner States," he says.

"As economies gallop with better incomes, oil deposit discovery and booming tourism, the aviation industry in the region is growing at about 7%, but, unfortunately the output of skills from training institutions is less than that," he adds.

Talking about the birth of CASSOA, Kashambo says: "The Protocol for Establishment of the Agency was signed on 18th April, 2007 by the founder Partner States of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda ministers responsible for civil aviation. Thereafter the agency was formally established by the Summit of Heads of State at the Fifth Meeting Symposium in Kampala, Uganda on June 18, 2007.

"We have also put up an annex building valued at $270,000 to contain the much needed accommodation for our growing staff," says Kashambo.

"We will have a library, separate administration from technical personnel and have an extra board room. In the past we had to outsource and spend lots of scarce resources. This will be saved and put to better use. The annex is ready for use, " he explains.

"Under the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) regional grouping, the East African Community is part of the ICAO AFI region. AFI comprises of African and Indian Ocean Flight Information Region (FIR)," Kashambo asserts. He adds that the entire region is short of aviation skills to serve them fast growing industry.

He explains that the cause of the shortage is the high cost of training pilots, engineers and air traffic controllers and other aviation professionals as the region gets more aviation traffic.

"The more reason CASSOA gets relevant in this era. We are due to have a centre, in Kenya to handle aspects of Aviation Medicine that are vital for personnel licensing and continued execution of their duties.

Challenges in the industry

East African Civil Aviation Academy in Soroti built for the EAC region, declined to serving only Uganda. It has been underexploited to capacity. The institute trains through instrument and multi-engine ratings.

Training aircraft are available ranging from Cessna 172 and Cessna 310. The flying school has adequate capacity and has been fairly renovated. "The airfield is very close to Soroti town.

We would like this East African Civil Aviation Academy that was established in 1971 to train pilots and aircraft engineers for the East African market to regain its spark, " Kashambo points out.

"Today, with technical assistance from the UNDP-ICAO appraised training programmes and, equipment provided, the academy remains linked to other institutions outside East Africa. It has since graduated many pilots, engineers and other aviation professional personnel including myself," says Kashambo.

The revived East African Community has great interest in the academy and has since declared the it as a centre of excellence in aviation training for the region whose awards are recognised by education regulations all over the world.

Achievements

In five years time CASSOA has made a number of achievements "We would like to see a harmonised single examination system to support the licensing process in the region," says Kashambo. "We also want to implement a scheme of sharing the scarce skills in the industry within the region.

We are advocating for a boost in the wages of an aviator to be commensurate with the other professionals internationally." Generally as Uganda celebrates 50 years of independence, so many up country airstrips are in a sorry state following years of neglect but plans are under way to rehabilitate them soon.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Ignatius Igundura says: "The demand for air transport is on a steady increase for tourism, business and official work. As more

Ugandans get better incomes, aviation is fast becoming the most preferred means of transport. We hope to have a mobile control tower in areas where there is none. Trips to national parks could take half the time if one used air for transport, he adds.

Harmonising air safety standards in E. Africa

As the East African Community (EAC) partner states move towards regional integration, the aviation standards in the region are also being harmonised.

According to Ignatius Igundura, the Public Affairs manager of the Civil Aviation Authority, the EAC Civil Aviation Safety and security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) is the fi rst aviation regional agency to be formed on the African continent.

"It is supposed to coordinate aviation safety and security in the East African region," he says. All country aviation organisations have standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Its role is to assist states meet those minimum standards. The East African aviation body also adheres to those standards. As Uganda and her neighbours work towards improving her trade and tourism industry, the need to improve aviation standards becomes more imminent.

As a coordinator, CASSOA considers harmonisation of regulation. Partner states are working towards achieving a single sky in East Africa.

This means that the air transport system between partner states would be considered as one. A uniform skyline would mean that a plane flying over Kenya is regulated in a similar vein as the one flying over Uganda.

Apparently, the single system across Eastern Africa for regulatory approvals and licenses is still in the domain of national civil aviation regulators.

The East African airspace is still a closed shop in each country. Igundura explains that achieving a single sky is a process which takes time. However, a lot of things are being done to achieve the objective. "The first thing we started with was to harmonise regulation," he says.

According to the CASSOA website, one of the major achievements of the body since its inception besides harmonisation, has been the development of guidance materials which have been propagated in the Partner States.

The accession of Rwanda and Burundi to the EAC however, means that their aviation legislations and regulations must be harmonised to the other States.

This is an on-going process in which the agency is actively involved. CASSOA is located in Entebbe and there are to serve the region though it was hoped that the national regulators would progressively be integrated in a single East African Civil Aviation Authority with national branches.

Although all member states benefit from CASSOA equally, CAA'S proximity to the East African aviation body gives Uganda a closer collaboration hence benefiting from CASSOA's technical expertise. This proximity would also give Uganda a much needed boost in improving its aviation industry.

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