in Features / ATM & Regulatory

Keeping Ethiopian skies safe

Posted 10 May 2017 · Add Comment

The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) was established in 1944, a year before national carrier Ethiopian Airlines. Kaleyesus Bekele looks back over the history of the organisation and talks to its director general about the current challenges and opportunities.

A year after it was established, in 1945, the ECAA set up its own aviation training centre with the help of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). At that time the centre mainly offered radio communication training courses.
In the same year, the Ethiopian Government, in collaboration with the US airline, Trans World Airline (TWA), established Ethiopian Airlines. Since then, the ECAA has been regulating the national flag-carrier and managing the country’s airspace.
The authority built and administered airports until 2003 but, as the aviation sector grew rapidly, the government decided to run airport matters differently and set up Ethiopian Airports Enterprise as an independent institution.
The ECAA basically provides regulatory and air navigation services. It regulates the aviation sector in Ethiopia. It inspects mainly the national flag-carrier, Ethiopian Airlines. It also inspects 13 foreign airlines flying to Addis Ababa, including Lufthansa, Emirates, Turkish, Qatar, Fly Dubai, Kenya Airways, Air Djibouti and Sudan Airways through the safety oversight of foreign aircraft (SAFA).
The authority has issued air operator’s certificates (AOCs) for 15 domestic airlines engaged in charter flight services but only seven of them are operational at the moment.
ECAA director general, Wossenyeleh Hunegnaw, said that the authority had made a lot of progress in the past five or six years, adding that, as the air transport sector in the country is growing rapidly, the authority is developing its capability to regulate the sector and meet the growing demand for air navigation services.
“Ethiopian Airlines is growing very fast. It has been expanding its fleet and domestic and international destinations in recent years. More foreign airlines are coming to Addis Ababa so the air traffic is growing significantly every year,” Hunegnaw said.
According to the director general, the ECAA invested more than $10 million and successfully installed radar and automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B) systems seven years ago, which totally transformed the authority’s airspace management capability. “Previously we used a manual procedure. The new flight instruments enabled us to manage the air traffic efficiently.”
It used to take the air traffic controllers (ATCs) up to 35 minutes to guide an approaching aircraft to land at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. Now it takes between five and seven minutes for an aircraft to land or take off.
As a back-up to its radar system, the ECA has just bought a modern equipment message-handling system (MHS) from Italian company, Leonardo.
The $2.6 million multilateralization system (M-LAT) should be installed at the end of 2017 or in early 2018.
“The M-LAT can manage the Bole International approach area at up to 24,000ft and 60 nautical miles distance. If the radar fails, we use the M-LAT as a back up,” Hunegnaw said.
The authority also recently installed a new communication console.
Hunegnaw is proud of the aviation training school. “Our school trains ATCs, communication navigation and surveillance (CNS) professionals, radar, radio and navigational aid equipment technicians. It is a member of ICAOs trainer programme. It is an associate member of the trainer plus programme and now we are working hard to become a full member.”
According to Hunegnaw, some years ago the ECAA did not have an adequate number of ATCs and technicians. But, in the last few years, the authority has built the capacity of the training school and trained a large number aviation personnel. “We now have enough ATCs, radar technicians and aircraft inspection engineers. In fact, we have started training ATCs from neighbouring countries like Somaliland and Djibouti. We also have requests for training programmes from other countries.”
Hunegnaw said the aviation training school has developed a standard training package (STP) and is being audited by an ICAO-approved validator. “This will enable us to access 100 different courses under the ICAO’s Technical Cooperation Bureau (TCB).”
The ECAA was audited by ICAO in 2015 and scored 65.14, well above the world average.
“The ICAO’s audit is based on your carriers’ operation. Since we have a big national carrier, with 95 international destinations, the ICAO conducted a full audit on us. We have successfully passed the audit. We are working on the findings and we are filling the gaps identified in the audit. Then we will call for the ICAO’s coordinated validation mission to inspect the improvements we made. I am sure we will significantly improve.”
Based on the ICAO recommendation, the ECAA hired inspector pilots and formed the aircraft accident investigation bureau as an independent body. It had formerly been operating as a department of the authority. “We have made several amendments and improvements based on the ICAO findings,” Hunegnaw said.
In 2014, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) audited the ECAA and granted it category one status.
Ethiopian Airlines is one of the two airlines from sub-Saharan Africa that flies to the US. It serves Washington DC, Los Angeles and New York from its Addis Ababa hub and plans to add more destinations.
The FAA first granted the ECAA category one status in 1998 when Ethiopian first began flying to Washington DC. It was then audited by FAA in 2006 and 2014, maintaining its status each time.
The authority is trying to replicate the success of commercial aviation in the general and business aviation sector.
Hunegnaw said the ECAA is striving to develop the general aviation sector, which is currently in its infancy. “As Ethiopia’s economy is growing, the demand for charter flight service is thriving,” he said.
Currently, there are only seven active private airlines offering charter flight services.
There are three pilot training schools approved by the ECAA – the Ethiopian Aviation Academy, Abyssinian Pilot Training School and East Africa Pilot Training School – operating in the country. There is also one approved cabin crew training school, the National Aviation College.
Hunegnaw said the ECAA is striving to boost private investment in the air transport sector. “A national aviation policy that encourages private investors has been drafted and submitted to the government for endorsement.”
 

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