Uganda’s aviation crisis continues unabated

Information received late yesterday suggests that the Board of Directors of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) will finally meet on the morning of August 1 after weeks of inexplicable silence

Uganda’s aviation crisis continues unabated

Information received late yesterday suggests that the Board of Directors of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) will finally meet on the morning of August 1 after weeks of inexplicable silence to deal with the escalating crisis the CAA is now engulfed in.

There are added suggestions from usually reliable sources close to the UCAA that the stark reality of the damage done to the organization’s reputation and the aviation industry at large in Uganda is beginning to sink in.

“Some of these people acted in the past like demi gods, and in every contentious issue with them was always the unsaid but clearly understood message between the lines, that should you dare to disagree, dare to try take your objections to other levels you would see them next time you have to appear before those individuals. The decisions they made were considered final and you just had to swallow and comply, right or wrong regardless. I bet you that the vehemence of the public’s reaction is a total surprise to them. The fact that most now believe that the UCAA are the villains and the airlines are the victims has completely shocked them to their core. It is no longer business as usual between airlines and the regulator. They got drowned in a tsunami of negative publicity in which they have lost all professional respect,” said a regular commentator in an unsolicited interaction.

Meanwhile, Ndege Aviation’s Tim Cooper wrote another letter to the directorate for safety, security and economic regulations demanding urgent clarification and answers as his, and apparently other companies’ previous letters continue to remain unanswered. This silence from the regulators suggests that UCAA has failed to deal adequately, professionally and promptly with the legitimate questions and widespread dissent and opposition from the aviation industry, something they never before had to deal with to such an extent and were, therefore, woefully unprepared to handle.

Civil Aviation Authority
Attn: Director of Safety Security and Economic Regulation
Entebbe International Airport
Entebbe

REF: NJA/AOC2/2014 Thursday, 31 July 2014

Dear Sir

My letter, NJA/AOC2/2014 of 23rd July refers.

I am disappointed to have received no reply to the above captioned letter and the one before that.

On 6th June you issued a fresh AOC certificate to Ndege Juu Africa. For reasons that you have yet to explain this certificate was backdated to December 2013 when our AOC was last renewed.

We must assume that this new AOC which you issued is a valid, legal document.

Upon examination, the fresh AOC certificate’s main departure from the original December 2013 AOC certificate is that Ndege is now restricted to commercial activities in Uganda only.

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The conclusion that I draw from this is that the CAA has different standards for domestic flights than international flights. It is also reasonable to assume that these different standards pertain to safety or security or both since this is what your directorate deals with. In the absence of any other explanation it seems reasonable to assume that these standards are different for domestic flights than for international flights, hence the restriction to domestic operations.

I would be most grateful if you could enumerate and specify in what ways standards for Ugandan flights are different than for international flights. It would be most helpful if you could refer me to the specific regulations that you are using. I have checked regulation and AIC’s and can find nothing.

Of course, you have written to Ndege on a number of occasions explaining that Uganda is a sovereign state and that the CAA’s interpretations of aviation regulation may be at variance with international standards or even the standards set in neighbouring countries such as Kenya, so we could understand how such different standards have come about.

Ndege Juu Africa maintains its position that it holds a valid AOC which you recently issued. In the absence of any regulatory process we shall not comply with your requirement to recertify since this request is capricious and unlawful.

Please note that Ndege Juu Africa continues to sustain serious financial damage as a result of your unexplained and unlawful actions.

I still await confirmation in writing that international flights made by Ndege up to the issuance of the backdated AOC were legal. Failure by you so to do causes Ndege serious reputational damage.

Yours faithfully

Tim Cooper
Accountable Manager
C.C. Hon. Minister of Works and Transport
Managing Director, CAA

What remains unsaid in the letter but hangs like the Sword of Damocles over the UCAA are potential claims for damages by the affected airlines, should the authority’s actions be found to have been unlawful as Cooper suggests, something many others believe to be true as the quoted regulations in the letter to Air Uganda of June 17 were apparently only made legal through a statutory instrument in July.

The clock is also running down for ICAO to make public their audit findings and if, as is widely expected, the UCAA will be shown to have come in below global average and acceptable standards, the writing will be on the wall for the regulators in Entebbe. What will follow is very likely going to be a major cleaning of house to rid the UCAA of, as at an earlier stage one outraged aviators had put it “incompetence, arrogance and ignorance.”

Whether or not a sacrificial lamb will already be put to the sword after the upcoming board meeting in the morning is a matter of speculation, but decisions will become known soon after the meeting will have ended with whistleblowers having a field day.

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