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Uganda Aviation

Inside Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority licensing hearing

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa  May 28, 2009

Last week the 33rd licensing meeting of Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority took place at Kampala’s Imperial Royale Hotel. The meeting was open to applicants and members of the public but also media representatives. The statutory notice for the hearing was given in mid April and had listed 11 applicants, 6 of which were renewal applications while 5 were for new aviation ventures. However, on the day of the hearing only 9 companies turned up, 5 of which were requesting for renewals and 4 for new licenses. It could not be established why two of the listed applicants, namely Kilwa Air of Mwanza/Tanzania and Kilwa Air (U) of Entebbe/Uganda did not appear, both of whom were due for a renewal of their current Air Services License.

Amongst others Skyjet, recently making news, also applied for the renewal of their initial 1 year Air Service Licence and during questioning it was revealed that their B737 had on arrival only some 4 months of flying left, before coming due for a major C-check. This, airline representatives assured the licensing committee, was now being done after the restructuring of the company had taken place, and the aircraft would be serviced at the Kenya Airways AMO in Nairobi over the next couple of weeks. This information is largely different from the statements made on start up, when the aircraft was presented as having undergone a major check prior to arrival in Uganda. From experience this column knows that regular A or B checks on aircraft are not considered ‘major,’ for which only C or D checks qualify.

It was also noticed that of the ‘new’ applications four were for cargo operations while only one company applied for non-scheduled passenger charters with a Cessna Caravan.

The board then entertained some questions from the floor, where such issues as reciprocity with other East African Community member states were raised. Uganda is generally perceived to be a very liberal country in regard of aviation, while some of the other states are notoriously difficult, including treating Ugandan registered aircraft as outright ‘foreign,’ a clear violation of the spirit of cooperation within the East African region and yet done with deliberate impunity. Another matter of concern was the absence of a clearly spelled out meeting platform between air operators and the regulatory body to discuss matters arising.

Also raised was the issue of the low level of new applications, in contrast with for instance Kenya, and members of the board gave a number of mitigating factors for this lamentable development. It was pointed out that the CAA in fact operated an incentive scheme for locally registered airlines, while several taxation rules were also changed in favor of locally incorporated airlines in last year’s budget to support and stimulate the aviation sector.

Yet, it was generally acknowledged that the high aviation fuel prices in Entebbe (mostly JetA1) and Kajjansi (mostly AVGAS) were detrimental to the development of a long-term sustainable aviation industry.

A final point of concern raised from the floor was the level of regulatory charges and airport taxes, combined with an appeal to regionally review and bring them down to acceptable lower levels.

After the meeting was adjourned there was consensus amongst applicants and observers that the board’s queries were both probing and fair and that the Chair’s indulgence to questions from the floor beyond licensing issues was both accommodating as well as ‘mature,’ this being a comment of one of the attendees at the end of the session.

Inside Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority licensing hearing
Uganda, Civil Aviation Authority

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