Are Yemen’s Airports Safe? [Archives:2000/18/Business & Economy]

May 1 2000

As part of the European Union’s assistance to Yemen, FII, a company based in Braunschweig-Germany, concluded a few month ago the flight inspection of navigation aids at Yemen’s 5 international airports. Given the importance of civil aviation for Yemen’s economic development, Yemen Times took the opportunity to closer examine the issue of air traffic safety in Yemen. Hisham Al-Qubati of the Yemen Times filed this interview with the Deputy Chairman of the Civil Aviation and Meteorological Authority (CAMA) Eng. Hussein Al Sayagy and his team, the FII crew and Mr. Rainer Freund, head of the European Commission Technical Advisory Office in Sana’a…

FII’s Beechcraft Super King Air 350
Eng. Al Sayaghi in an opening statement underlined the key role CAMA plays in promoting aviation safety in Yemen: “Under the directives of CAMA chairman Brig. Mohsen M. Al-Yousefi, the authority has achieved considerable improvements in its capacity to ensure the recommended flight safety standards in Yemen. This accomplishment has only been possible through the procurement of high tech equipment and the continuous upgrading of the specialized skills of CAMA ground engineers and other personnel. The European Commission has assisted this process since 1992, notably through the financing of flight calibration services.”Eng. Sultan Mohammed Ahmed, Director General of Engineering at CAMA introduced us to the sector and the concept of flight calibration:
“Approx. 6000 people are directly employed in the civil aviation sector in Yemen and the annual turnover of both private and public operators is estimated at USD 300 million. In 1999 , we registered approx. 1 million passenger movements and approx. 20,000 mt of freight. Reliable ground based navigation systems are essential for air traffic safety and punctuality, particularly at night and in poor weather conditions. Yemen is member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ICAO recommends the type of air traffic navigation aids for the regions of the world as well as for individual airports in accordance with their characteristics i.e. geographical location, frequency of flights, prevailing weather patterns etc.. ICAO moreover recommends the mode and frequency of maintaining and calibrating this equipment. In the case of Yemen, flight calibration ought to be carried out twice a year, whilst ground inspection should be performed every month.”
Eng. Mohammed Matook Mckawee, Training & Technical Advisor to the CAMA chairman added “Flight calibration as opposed to ground calibration is so important because it is the only way of assessing the accuracy of the information provided to the approaching aircraft by the airport’s instrument landing system (ILS). If the information provided by the ILS is outside certain tolerance levels, the flight computer of the approaching aircraft, which compares the ILS data with his own data, will reject the information. In poor visibility conditions, such a situation would constitute a safety risk”.
YT: Clearly the cost of these flight inspections must be considerable, given that the calibration craft and crew are being brought in from Germany.
FII Captain Guenter Tempelmann explained: Flight calibration is a high tech operation, requiring state of the art electronic equipment and a highly trained crew of 4 i.e. ground engineer, on board engineer , pilot and co-pilot. The electronic equipment on board costs 2.5 million EURO i.e. as much as the entire aircraft – in our case a Beechcraft Super King Air 350. The calibration craft may have to fly as many as 20 approaches per airport until the ground based equipment has been adjusted to provide data that match those delivered by the onboard measuring devices. We are now at the end of our 5 day trip and the operational navaids at Sana’a, Aden, Hodeidah, Taiz and Riyan airports are now again all working within the permitted tolerance levels.
Eng. Sultan added: Coming back to your earlier question about cost, it is true that flight calibration is an expensive operation. We therefore appreciate the contribution of the EU which has reached almost 1 million EURO since the start of our cooperation in 1991. This assistance gives us breathing space required to replace some of the ageing navaids which are still functional but increasingly difficult to maintain because of problems associated with the sourcing of spare parts.

YT: Mr. Freund, what prompted the European Commission to support CAMA and what are your future cooperation plans with the organization?
In 1990, CAMA had to assume air traffic control over Yemen’s airspace, which for the Northern governorates had previously been assured by the Jeddah ATC. The Civil Aviation Authorities of the
two Yemen merged equally in 1990, following the country’s re-unification. These events resulted in a drastic increase in both air traffic safety relevant investment requirements and recurrent expenditure.
Given the critical role of civil aviation for Yemen’s economic development and particularly so for the at the time emerging tourism trade and given the country’s extraordinary fiscal constraints in the post 1990 period, the European Commission agreed to provide funding for flight calibration, training of aviation ground engineers as well as consulting services for upgrading of navaids installations at selected airports.
The current agreement under which the above services are provided expires by year end. However, the government has requested future Commission assistance in two areas:
Restructuring of CAMA in the context of the civil service reform program and for which funding has already been approved by EU member states.
Continuation of support to the flight calibration program, training of CAMA personnel in a range of air traffic safety relevant disciplines and provision of some critical navaids. This proposal is currently being developed.

YT: This all sounds as if civil aviation airtraffic control and safety in Yemen will remain dependant on subsidies for some time to come. Are you not concerned about the sustainability of your interventions?
Obviously this is a concern and has been subject to intense discussions with CAMA and the Ministry of Transportation. The reality here is that international passenger volume and the number of airlines serving Sana’a and other Yemeni airports had dropped by 40% – 50% after 1990 and again after 1994. This has obviously had negative effects on CAMA’s revenue from landing fees and other air traffic related charges. Whilst our consultants tell us that there is some room for improvement in regard to collection efficiency, particularly of overflight charges from non – IATA members, the present volume of air traffic is still insufficient to allow CAMA to stand on its own feet and for reasons largely outside the authority’s control.
However, market forecasts for 2000 seem encouraging with an anticipated growth of 8% in international passenger volume and 20% in international air cargo. The possible opening of domestic routes to competition from 2001 onwards as well as the prospect of seeing the air cargo village project in Aden taking shape are also positive signals.
CAMA expects moreover a reduction in its operating expenditure as a result of the already agreed divestiture of currently loss making non-aeronautical activities and from a shrinking payroll. Additional revenue increases may moreover be expected from the licensing of ground service operations. It would therefore seem that in the medium term, there are chances that a slimmer CAMA could indeed become financially self reliant