Air Botswana’s latest acquisition - Embraer 170 jet - remains grounded because it is yet to be certified by Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB). Meanwhile some of the national airline’s executives in particular the Director of Flight Operations, Captain Clement Nsimbi, are takig the rap for the mess, but through the office of the PR manager, Thabiso Leshoai, Nsimbi is vehemently denying any blame worthiness.
The aircraft , which was bought in Canada was delivered without verification certificate that allows it to be flown commercially in foreign lands more than two months ago. Contrary to ICAO regulations relevant authorities, particularly the project manager and or flight operations director did not prepare training of crew staff and CAAB inspectors in advance. Botswana Guardian learns that CAAB inspector did in fact accompany Air Botswana staff and was trained on ground school, which he passed. However, Director Flight Operations refused to pay for his simulator training allegedly because it was expensive and they would not be able to bond him.
It’s now said that CAAB has secured funds and a training slot for him is in April 2019. It’s said for type-related airworthiness training one of the airworthiness inspectors has done in-house training with Air Botswana pilots. He is currently undergoing on the job training which is to be validated by SACCA on 17 March 2019.
Nsimbi denied the accusations as factually incorrect. Instead he said the CAAB Inspector had been scheduled for oversight purposes and that Air Botswana assumed the costs for training. However, the requirement for the CAAB Inspector to be type rated on the aircraft came late in the process, and was not able to be accommodated at that stage. “The issue of bonding has never been grounds for denying the Inspector simulator training”. AB’s cancellation of flights due to crew shortage is another issue of concern. Director of Flight operations has allegedly said that CAAB never allows them to use relief or temporary crew.
However, experts say this cannot be the case as the Operations Manual provides operational procedures for such issues. Nsimbi concured that there have been cancellations and that these have a direct link with the delay of the deployment of the jet because the sectors planned to be covered by the jet had to now be covered by ATR aircraft. Unfortunately this increased the crew working hours and led to maximum utilisation of allowed crew duty times, which in turn led to crew constraints in some instances. “The expedited integration of the Jet to our fleet is the primary solution however; we are also looking to source additional crew on temporary basis,” he said.
Nsimbi was noncommital as to when the jet will hit the sky, saying it will be commercially available as soon as it is registered on “our Air Operator Certificate, which process is currently with CAAB”. He confirmed that the Jet is technically in working condition and serviceable. For an aircraft to be commercially available in Botswana, Air Botswana needs to satisfy Part V (2) of the Civil Aviation (Air Operator Certification and Administration) Regulations 2013.
It provides that, a person shall not operate any specific type of aircraft in commercial air transport until it has completed satisfactory initial certification, which includes the issuance of an Air Operator Certificate listing for that type of aircraft. As part of this process, several mandatory steps need to be followed, including; de-registration of the aircraft from its former regulatory jurisdiction and registration in Botswana in order for CAAB to start to enforce its regulations. It is only when these processes have been completed and the aircraft has been included in Air Botswana’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC) that it can now be commercially available.
International operations however require what is known as Foreign Operators Permit (FOP) which can only be applied for and secured after the CAAB certification processes are completed. Most importantly, these approvals are dependent on each other and necessarily sequential. As a result, they tend to be lengthy. Unlike the ATR equipment that was registered before arrival in Botswana the Jet -being a first for CAAB - was not possible to follow the same procedure.
Nsimbi said the option of relief crews is also being considered subject to CAAB regulations as well as “our own Operations Manual; there is no reluctance in this area”. As for allegations that the project is mismanaged and failed to comply with CAAB regulations, Nsimbi said Air Botswana always complies with all regulations and has never, under any circumstances circumvented any regulations as laid out by regulatory and governing bodies. Nsimbi said in light of current experiences, management has embarked on a process to review “our manuals and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to international best practice in line with any regulatory requirements”.