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Let us keep our airports ‘airworthy’

Immediate on-the-spot reports attributed the crash to a mud-messed airport. A look at the remains of the plane after the crash made people incredulous that there were neither injuries nor loss of life in the accident. All 30- plus passengers escaped unhurt!

But for people like me who wish well publicly owned firms that survived the massive privatization of the past two decades that engulfed all state owned firms, this was a particularly depressing accident. Here was a national flag-carrier, Air Tanzania Corporation (ATCL) currently seriously re-organizing to re-launch itself competitively in the skies of this country and beyond losing a seed plane!

People who are following the evolution of this national airline will agree that it had, within a very short time of bouncing back to the skies made the difference. In spite of its fleet limitations, the national flag carrier has made almost daily flights across the country from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma in the western end of the country via Tabora, in the hinterland.

This has alleviated considerably transport constraints of majority of the people of this country given the unreliable railway network. I am told, however, that thanks to forward planning by the airline’s management, a new plane had long been ordered to beef up its start-up fleet.

This is expected shortly, actually in the coming week. Good news! But to what environment? What is the landscape and state of affairs of this country’s airports and airdromes? Are they ‘airworthy’ - kept as proper airports? Who is worried among our policy and decision makers that our airdromes and airports leave a lot to be desired and therefore doing something?

Certainly, these are good questions. And they are good questions because if addressed seriously, they will mean having in place a sustainable aviation industry in this country. Apart from the Dar es Salaam International Airport or Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Airport, which is of international standards, the rest of our airports and airdromes in the country leave a lot to be desired.

Most often than not, reports abound of poorly kept airports or airdromes being condemned to the vagaries of weather with no one being commensurately creative or innovative to defeat the vagaries of weather. These are the Mwanza, Tabora and Kigoma airports or airdromes to mention but a few. The factor of rebuilding/ reconstructing or renovating airports and airdromes cannot be over-emphasized.

In the overall economic picture of the country, air accessibility is indispensable. Clearly, this is a huge country. To have to depend on road accessibility alone is thoughtless if not hopeless. With reliable and well constructed airdromes, we can be sure of increased tourists and visitors, not to speak of the advantage that go with movement of people in terms of economic activity.

Initial reports that the mishap in Kigoma was attributed to a muddy runaway or its sidelines are one pointer that we are not serious in the upkeep of our airdromes. Surely there must be a way out for one to sustain a mudfree airport, isn’t there? The accident at Kigoma airdrome the other day, which could have been more serious, is certainly a wakeup call to relevant authorities and agencies to all the time take a wider picture of the aviation industry in general, even where things may appear to be running normal on face value.

E-mail: wakuhenga@gmail.com

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Author: MAKWAIA WA KUHENGA

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