Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has reached a turning point. Faced with an ever-increasing growth in demand for its services and insights, the Authority has developed a strategy massive in scope; the 20-year ‘master plan’ will look at building the capacity of Entebbe Airport in order to facilitate the growth of the Uganda’s economy in the long term. It is achieving this by ensuring operational efficacy through technological innovation, operational excellence, and by supporting its workforce.

Operations

The CAA is primarily concerned with the operations of Entebbe Airport (in addition to some other small-scale airfields) and, in an official capacity, its main responsibility is to maintain the highest standards of safety, security and service in civil aviation. Its remit is not as narrow as it sounds, as Managing Director Rama Makuza explained: “The Authority offers advisory, operational and control functions to the government of Uganda the air transport operators and other stakeholders in the air transport industry.

“In particular, The Authority is charged with the role of advising on international conventions relating to civil aviation and how these will be adopted necessary to give effect to the standards and recommended practices under those conventions.”

It is also charged with licensing air transport, safety regulations, providing air navigation services, coordinating search and rescue activities and certifying both operators and aircraft. The Authority is also charged with the establishment, maintenance, operation and ownership of aerodromes and, any other functions as may be conferred upon it by government. In short, the CAA forms the backbone of Uganda’s civil aviation sector and is therefore responsible for its economic growth through this channel, both directly and indirectly.

Last year, the Authority had a registered income of $46.4 million and has an average annual recorded growth of nearly 60 percent; developing at this rate brings with it both opportunity and danger in almost equal measure. This all came to a head last year, Makuza explained, and required appropriate action.

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He said: “We found ourselves handling traffic that had been projected for 2019 in 2014! The 20-year Master Plan is and was a response to this increase in pressure and demand for our aviation services and facilities following this tremendous growth in traffic, which has surpassed previous projections.”

Technology

In liaison with regional experts in the aviation industry, the Authority has used technology as a panacea to address safety, capacity, efficiency and environmental requirements, particularly in-line with the ICAO Global Aviation Plans in Air Navigation and Safety.

Included are some Mode S radar surveillance systems which simultaneously provide enhanced surveillance capabilities and reduce controller-pilot workload. The CAA has also undertaken a series of automation measures across the board in a bid to drive efficiency and safety, this covers air traffic management (ATM) and aeronautical information management through the implementation of automatic terminal information systems (ATIS) and safety nets, as well as automatic weather observation systems (AWOS).

The Authority is also in the process of migrating from conventional navigation systems based on fixed points to satellite based navigation using global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). It has already delivered GNSS Approaches for Entebbe Airport, as well as area navigation on some international routes.

Makuza said: “With this we expect to reduce air traffic delays and provide more flexible and direct routes through Ugandan airspace. We have now engaged a consultant to re-design the airspace of Uganda to take into consideration the increased traffic at Entebbe and the new airports and control zones.

“The new airspace re-design will also address the underlying technologies required to support future ATM operations for both civil and military traffic. We are also participating in regional safety projects in the EAC, Northern Corridor, Central Corridor, COMESA and Tri-partite, among others, that will bring together collaborative efforts from across the region to improve safety, capacity and efficiency.”

The CAA also understands the importance of technology from a software perspective and is ensuring that it can benefit operationally from rolling innovations out in this regard. These have taken the form of monitoring and evaluation systems which staff have already been trained to operate.

Software has also driven the Authority’s automation drive, particularly in the form of e-procurement, passenger tracking, and car parking. CAA is also looking to implement a new log management system and revamp its flight information displays to have a more modern look. 

The Authority is also utilising modern flying techniques, in the form of continuous descent and climb operations, which will help to reduce its emissions and fuel burn and, as so many organisations are finding, will reduce the amount spent on this aspect. 

Talent management

Makuza was proud of the achievements of his staff in the face of an ever-increasing demand for services; his confidence in his teams is well founded since the Authority has strived to ensure that not only its workforce performs highly, but also that it is adequately motivated and rewarded in recognition of this fact.

He said: “Aviation is a highly specialised industry that calls for specific skills in most areas. We provide attractive packages to staff. We also undertake continuous motivational programmes to ensure job satisfaction. Staff are also supported to attain higher academic grades and professional skills.”

“The majority of the technical staff at the Authority are internationally certified; we review our training needs and plan every year to ensure that standards are maintained. The training plan ensures that the various staff training needs are addressed following recommendations and observations of the staff appraisal exercise and the industry system audits.”

“The management team and managers have all been exposed to the Aviation Management Course that is conducted at various Aviation Academies to specifically equip them for the industry’s rapidly changing environment.”

Putting Uganda on the map

Uganda operates a liberalised air transport regime which encourages free entry and exit of air operators. It is therefore in its interest to encourage foreign air operators to operate in its airspace extend a number of incentives to domestic and international operators.

Makuza said: “Some of the incentives include a 100 percent discount on aeronautical charges for one flight out of every seven frequencies a week in/out of Entebbe International Airport, on a specific sector, for scheduled domestic operators.

“In relation to investment in physical infrastructure, CAA also provides rebates on land lease rates and concession fees equivalent to 10 percent of the capital investment cost spread over 10 years to capital projects for aviation infrastructure undertaken in Uganda.”

It is clear that the CAA (not to mention Entebbe Airport itself) is set to play a significant role in the social and economic development of Uganda as tourism and trade continue to grow. By tacking the prospect of massive growth in demand head-on with its 20 year master plan, the Authority will be fully equipped to ensure that the country’s most important air asset is set to facilitate the development of the country.

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