AVIATION officials from Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya have met in Kigali to discuss ways of having harmonised aviation policies.
The meeting on Wednesday was attended by officials from the three countries joined by South Sudan. Among other things discussed at the meeting included modalities of sharing training of experts and harmonisation of airspace control.
Dr Richard Masozera, Director General of Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, said the move was in line with the year's tripartite summit in Kigali, which directed ministers to consider new areas that can be fast tracked, including air space management.
Article 92 of East African Community (EAC) Treaty requires partner states to harmonise civil aviation rules and regulations and make air transport services safe, efficient and profitable including adopting common policies.
According to Dr Masozera, the meeting also discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by air transport in the region in light of the current and forecast demand.
The development follows the three states signing of a tripartite agreement last year on introducing single tourist visa for foreigners visiting the region (Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) and use of national identity cards as travel documents for their nationals.
The other two EAC partner states - Tanzania and Burundi - have not yet joined the arrangement. Mr Geoffrey Okot, Air Traffic Manager at Uganda's Civil Aviation Authority pointed out that airspace control by countries was a challenge to the development of the sector.
For example, he said, control of individual country air spaces presents a challenge in terms of fuel consumption if an aircraft has to divert to other spaces.
"Sometimes we purchase airspace control equipment but we don't have experts to operate them but if we harmonise our operations we would be exchanging expertise among ourselves," he said.
Training an airspace controller costs approximately between 20,000 and 30,000 US dollars. Most of the regional aviation experts are trained in Europe and the US. Airports charge various fees including navigation, landing and parking fees.
Aircrafts are charged between 3,200 and 5,000 US dollars for navigation fees, landing and parking depending on its capacity.
Officials said if countries harmonised their aviation operations, this would enable sharing of training facilities and eliminate some costs. Air ticket charges, would also go down and encourage more people to fly.