Rwanda’s safe-flight policy gets global approval

A RwandAir plane. Will the upcoming launch of the single African air transport market turn around aviation sector fortunes? / File.

by Eugène Kwibuka

Rwanda’s investments into the aviation sector were commended last week as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) awarded the country with a certificate in recognition of its improved competencies in overseeing and managing aviation safety.

After an ICAO audit last year, the body has said that Rwanda has achieved a high level of air transport safety control, with an overall result of 74 per cent in terms of how the country implemented the required safety assurance mechanisms.

Efforts made by Rwanda in managing aviation safety earned the country an ICAO President’s certificate, which the president of ICAO Council, Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, handed to the country’s Minister of Infrastructure, Claver Gatete, on the sidelines of a four-day Africa Aviation Safety Management Symposium last week.

Aliu said that Rwanda has achieved an aviation safety control level that is above both African and global average and described the country’s feat in aviation safety as a boon for the recently launched Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

Rwanda earned the ICAO President’s Certificate because it has made tremendous steps to comply with the body’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP), which lays out a set of aviation safety-related Standards and Recommended Practices.

The country effectively implemented the recommended practices by making investments in organising its aviation legal framework and civil aviation organisational structure such as creating the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) and empowering the body with capabilities to oversee safety and security of air operations.

RCAA currently keeps an eye on aviation operators such as aircraft maintenance organisations, aviation personnel, airport managers, air navigation services providers as well as aviation training organisations to ensure that they meet safety standards agreed on.

RCAA’s Director General, Silas Udahemuka, said that over the last decade, Rwanda reviewed its civil aviation legal framework and re-organised its aviation institutions, and recruited appropriately qualified technical persons among other things.

He also said that the country established comprehensive technical guidance material for the aviation industry, recertified air operators such as RwandAir, increased its surveillance activities and ensured that aviation industry players comply with regulatory requirements.

“Rwanda, in its effort to establish and implement an effective safety oversight system, resolved deficiencies identified with regards to the critical elements for safety oversight,” Udahemuka said.

The Rwandan government has also invested in activities to license aviation personnel to ensure safe aircraft operations and it has acquired aircrafts that are suitable for safe flights.

The country has also built its capacities to investigate accidents and serious incidents even as ICAO noted that Rwanda had no fatal accidents on its operated commercial flights outside the country in the last five years.

ICAO officials say that by looking at how Rwanda effectively implemented USOAP requirements, the country is now among the highly trusted when it comes to operating safe flights.

“These latest assessments looked at all eight Effective Implementation (EI) areas and confirmed that Rwanda had achieved an overall result of 74 per cent. This is the 6th highest score for any state in Africa and well-above the global average of 67 per cent,” Aliu said.

With 26 African countries having so far committed to being part of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), Rwanda seems ready to play her role in making SAATM a success not only by signing up to it but by also operating safe flights across the continent.

RwandAir’s chief executive officer, Yvonne Makolo, has said that the recent ICAO President’s Certificate offered to Rwanda builds confidence in Rwanda’s aviation sector and ultimately confirms that safety is at the heart of the airline’s business.

With a fleet of twelve aircraft, including two wide-body Airbus A330 acquired last year, the national carrier currently flies to 26 destinations mainly across East, Central, West and Southern Africa, but also the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.

The airline has also planned to start flights to New York, in the USA, with a target to launch the trips in early August 2018.

At the four-day Africa Aviation Safety Management Symposium last week, Rwanda’s Minister for Infrastructure, Claver Gatete, emphasised that the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and Single African Air Transport Market will largely depend on a vibrant and sustainable air transportation system across the continent.

He said that the ICAO President’s Certificate given to Rwanda is an encouragement for the country’s goal to continue improving its aviation industry and being part of Africa’s Single Air Transport Market.

Then he urged the rest of African countries to try and “get ahead of aviation safety risks” by enhancing capabilities of their aviation safety oversight authorities and service providers.

SOURCE: The New Times

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