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Kenyan airports upgrade navigation systems

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 7 -Two major airports in Kenya have received upgraded air navigation systems to boost air traffic management and safety as part of a Sh3.5 billion investment by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).

KCAA Director General Hilary Kioko said the Digital Aerodrome Terminal Information System has been installed at both Jomo Kenyatta International and Moi International airports to modernise the aviation traffic space.

“The state-of- the-art equipment has been able to more than double the capacity of our air traffic controllers and remove most of the workload because the monitoring is being done automatically. This has enabled us to divide the Kenyan airspace into two,” he said.

The air traffic control centre system displays the entire Kenyan airspace on a screen, using information-generated radar sensors to enable air traffic controllers to detect an aircraft in any part of the country in real-time.

More specifically the KCAA has upgraded the radar and VHF radio communication equipment in various airports including JKIA, Moi and Wilson airports.

The installation project that began two years ago includes a new global positioning system (GPS) clock to ensure standardised and accurate time system at the central air control centre.

Aircraft movement in Kenya has increased from 195,000 in 2008 to 335,000 in 2010 and 2011 representing a 72 percent growth.

“The aviation industry in Kenya is growing very fast. We’ve registered an average of three to five new aircrafts in our register every month. So this move to modernise our aviation equipment is timely and it should be able to serve us for the next 10 to 15 years,” Kioko said.

KCAA Director for Air Navigation Services Reuben Lubanga said the Authority is looking to implement more advanced surveillance systems that will be satellite-based in the near future.

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“We are looking at putting new technology like Automatic Dependence Surveillance Contract (ADS-C) whereby aircrafts which are out of the line-of-sight using radar, can be seen using satellite especially in oceanic or remote areas,” he said.

The KCAA was also awarded ISO Certification that will enhance service delivery to clients by aligning the local aviation standards to international benchmarks.

Despite the growth Africa’s aviation industry still faces over taxation, costing carriers 18.5 US cents per Revenue Passenger Kilometre (RPK) within the continent, compared to 15 cents in Europe and 11 cents in America, according to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

African Airlines are now projected to break-even from a previous projected loss of $100 million from IATA’s 2011 outlook on the industry.

However traffic volumes and overall performance of African carries are expected to dip beyond 2012 due to the Arab uprising in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The European Union’s (EU) Emission Trading Scheme that will begin charging a carbon tax on aircraft operators flying over the EU airspace starting January 1, 2012 is expected to have adverse effects on local carriers.

“I think airlines in the region have to be prepared to invest in technology that will be compliant with these new requirements, which means spending more, but there’s a good side of it, because it serves you better and more efficiently,” he said.

According to research conducted by global auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), emissions of more than 50 aircraft operators worldwide represented a value of up to approximately €1 billion as at 31 March 2011.

Countries like Russia, China and the United States have locked horns with the EU over the ETS, deeming it a violation of the Chicago Convention, international open-skies agreements and the general principle of countries’ sovereignty over their airspace.

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A lawsuit filed in 2009 by the US Air Transport Association, American Airlines and United Continental Holdings against the EU’s ETS is still awaiting a final decision by the European Court of Justice.

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