13 December 2012

Uganda: A Chance for Ugandans to Fly

In a country where most people will never cross the border because they have never had a chance or cannot afford to, an airplane flight is a distant dream.

In that regard, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is giving such Ugandans a chance to fly, in a show titled the Golden Jubilee Airshow.

From the teacher to that primary school boy who is so eager to get a feel of being 32,000 feet in the air, everyone will finally get the chance to hear the words "welcome aboard and fasten your seatbelts."

Ignie Igunduura, manager Public Affairs CAA says celebrating this year's international Civil Aviation Week will be exceptional for the reason that CAA joins the country in commemorating its 50th independence jubilee celebrations, by offering flights around Kampala for only sh50,000.

The airshow will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday 16, starting at 9:00 am and closing at 6:00pm. "CAA is bringing in the public to demystify the aviation industry, which has some myths about it," he says.

The nearest most Ugandans have seen planes, is far above in the sky. This is to give such Ugandans a chance to fly. He explains that while some adults have been in planes, their children haven't. The flight will last about 21 minutes taking the passengers all over Kampala City, Entebbe, and over the Islands.

"You will get a perfect bird's eye view of not only the capital city, but you just might see exactly where you live," he assures adding that aircrafts have been got from Kenya and Tanzania to serve a big number of people.

This will be the first airshow in East Africa. But the airshow involves more than the in the air experience, as there will be exhibitors talking to people who want to learn certain aspects regarding aviation.

There will also be aerobatics, where air force and civilian aircrafts will be flying in different formats, similar to what we witnessed during the jubilee celebrations on October 9.

Bombing competition, flypasts, and entertainment from bands and contemporary musicians will make up part of the show. "Someone is going to win a return air ticket to London offered by Ethiopian Airlines," reveals Igunduura adding that this is largely a family fanfare, so bring the whole family.

"There is something for everyone." CAA wants to enhance awareness of the aviation industry. Although there are those who know about the aviation industry, there is a group that doesn't know much.

We intend to enhance people's knowledge of the industry through the number of activities throughout the day. He says specialists such as traffic controllers, engineers, and pilots will talk to the public, informing them about the design, development, production, operation, use of aeroplanes, and general information of how staff works in the aviation industry.

The other objective of the airshow is to help shape the careers of the young people, who might consider pursuing careers in aviation. "We have put together a team of eight lady pilots to talk to young girls, to inspire them to end up in the aviation industry not as waitresses but as pilots," stresses Igunduura.

They will be told what they need to study, what it takes to become pilots. Those who cannot fly will be given a static experience so that they can enter into the stationary planes, where they are to get the feel of its inside.

Preceding the airshow tomorrow, will be an exclusive experience for the media and special groups. According to Igunduura, the special groups include orphans selected from orphanages such as SOS Children's Village, Heart Ministries, TASO in Entebbe, School of The Deaf, Nkumba University, and Akwata Empola Blessed Youths.

"We are also picking; the longest serving midwives, special hire drivers who have dropped and picked passengers from the airport for years but have never had the chance. Likewise, some airport cleaners, four fishermen from Kigungu, and others will have a chance to fly for the very first time."

Airlines regain trust in Uganda aviation industry

By 1991, the aviation industry was in disarray. Following the manifold liberation wars, the aero infrastructure was in a sorry state. Also, the multiple management approach, where many ministries such as transport, defence and fi nance, managed the airport, brought so much disorganisation.

As a result, the Government decided to put the aviation sector under one management to achieve better results. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was thus formed to promote regular, effi cient, and orderly development of civil aviation in Uganda and outside.

The other objectives, according to Ignie Igunduura, manager Public Affairs, CAA were to develop, maintain, and operate aerodromes in Uganda. "We were established at the recommendation of two UN agencies, International Civil Aviation Organisation and UNDP," says Igunduura.

At the time, there were only nine international airline companies operating in Entebbe and about 118, 000 international passengers. Most airlines had lost confi - dence in Uganda because of the poor security, unstable economy, and second-rate aeronautical infrastructure over the years.

"At the time, there were potholes on the runways." "We upgraded the equipment, retrained staff, worked on paved ways; runways, taxi ways, and aprons," recounts Igunduura.

He recalls that renovation had to be done urgently. Thanks to grants from Denmark and Spain totalling to $50m, they embarked on rebuilding the place. There were 327 staff members 20 years ago, and now CAA employs 904 people.

"International airlines operating in Uganda have grown from nine to twenty one, and international passengers per year are now 1.2 million from 118, 000 in 1991," reveals Igunduura.

He adds that CAA has been able to put confi dence back into international airlines, as passenger facilities and services, air navigation and communication equipment at present meet international standards. He argues that CAA has the grown economy to thank for the growth of CAA because people do not come to the airport but rather come to Uganda the country.

"We as a country have seen economic, social, security, tourism, and trade development, which are the things that bring people to the country."

The airport too has been expanded in many ways. In 2001 they adopted a new plan after repairing and renovating for expansion of services. They built the VIP facility, a new air traffi c control rector, passenger boarding, baggage rector belts and built the CAA building.

Aviation industry boosts Uganda's economy

CAA has signifi cantly contributed to employment opportunities as the number of its employees grew from 300 to 900. Both the employees and CAA are obviously paying taxes to Government which increases the country's revenue.

"In 2002 we were along 13, 000 metric tons of exports, last year we had done 46, 665 metric tons and our projections are growing especially if the country's agricultural sector develops," he explains. About 68% of the 1.2 million international passengers are tourists.

Looking ahead

"We are planning to put up an aircraft maintenance centre, a modern cargo centre, a facility where we have castors, and modern automated facilities." He says CAA intends to create a Dubai of sorts. Build an airport city- a free trade zone with a shopping mall and recreational centre.

People can then stay for long around the airport and have a good time around the airport. It is a different case from today, where people want to come right at the time of checking in because they don't have any reason staying around longer.

"We also intend to increase our fuel reservoir to accommodate more litres," he adds saying that plans are already under way to expand Gulu and Kasese to international standards as alternatives to Entebbe airport. "Their master plans and engineering designs are already done."

Procedures are in place to introduce a departing passenger handling system, to enhance the speed of checking in passengers. We will expand our car parking facilities, we now know through research how many cars come at a time. So in the near future, a layered parking is possible."

"Of course our security too has been improved with more modern equipment," assures Igunduura.

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