KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – In an overnight development, it was learned that the Sudanese aviation regulatory department was ordered by Sudanese President Omar Bashir to immediately ban the use of ancient Antonov and Iljushin aircraft, after one each of them crashed within days on domestic flights.

It is also being reported that the head of the country’s civil aviation department was sacked at the same time and more changes are expected to take place in coming days, a move thought to purely assort blame and remain largely cosmetic in nature.

The ban, however, is likely two-faced, as the Sudanese military is also using aged Antonov bomber aircraft for their raids in Darfur and there is no indication at all that the Sudan Air Force will halt their use of those aircraft which were, according to reliable reports from Khartoum, still operating yesterday.

This panic reaction is likely to bring to a halt much of Sudan’s internal and external cargo flights, as many of the licensed cargo airlines in Sudan use former Soviet Union aircraft, both Antonovs and Iljushins. Most of these airlines are also not thought capable to immediately switch to more modern Western cargo aircraft, which up to the beginning of the global petrol crisis were anyway not available in a then tight market.

However, the present plans of global cargo operators to retire prematurely some of the fuel guzzlers, like aged DC8s, DC10s, B707s and B747-100 and B747-200, may now provide an opening for Sudanese air cargo companies to lease or even acquire some of those aircraft as replacements, but this will take some time and then continue to cost them in operating expenses for high fuel consumption and other related expenses like pilot training or having to wet lease at even greater cost.

Instead of enforcing scheduled maintenance requirements and insisting on regular pilot training, including the twice annual use of an a flight simulator facility, the Sudan aviation regulatory body clearly failed to insist on those basics of aviation oversight and now pays the price of being relegated to the ranks of the most incompetent authorities in the world.