When the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority’s Licensing Committee sat at the Imperial Royale Hotel in the centre of Kampala yesterday, a public event for which media and observers, aviation buffs and the public at large are invited besides the applicants, yesterday a small total of 7, there is always the potential of some excitement in the air, depending on just how well those requesting for new Air Service Licenses are prepared and how well those requesting for renewals have performed.
The 36th meeting again had its share of objections towards applications, with a public washing of apparently dirty aviation laundry between Almiron Aviation, seeking a new non scheduled cargo licence and proposing to introduce a non-modified aged L1011 no less. Objectors here were Uganda’s state corporation Uganda Air Cargo and the various spats in public were quite enough in the end for the chair of the licensing committee to move on to the next applicant, leaving Almiron to ponder what their fate will be, more so as they had apparently been licensed with an ASL back in 2006 only to then disappear before returning once more after Uganda had discovered significant quantities of crude oil.
Next up to defend their application was, in the order of arrival at the venue not in the order of what the public notice displayed, was Skyline Air and this was where the audience was treated to the rare spectacle of incompetence of the highest order by the company representatives, when after stuttering through a badly rehearsed presentation questions started to fly in. Having proposed to bring ancient Antonov and Iljushin aircraft into Uganda, ‘Just like that’ as was said verbatim, the applicants representative then mis-answered the question how old his various aircraft were by stating when the company was incorporated before then, when asked again by a member of the panel how old his birds were, answering ‘WOW’ stunning the entire room into momentary silence before continuing ‘ok, it is old but it can still be used in Uganda’.
Having attended all but a very few licensing hearings in Kampala since back in 1994 when the hearings had gone public after the establishment of the CAA, not once had an applicant put his hand into the proverbial hornets nest and predictably there was uproar on the panel and amongst us Ugandans. The chairman of the meeting, once the room had eventually quieted down, demanded an immediate withdrawal of that statement, making it clear that Uganda was ‘not a dumping ground for old aircraft’ and when no withdrawal was forthcoming by return then told the company representative to withdraw his application, also ‘Just like that’.
More objections came to the fore afterwards when Air Kenya’s Ugandan subsidiary AeroLink took centre stage, as they had committed the faux pas to turn their website on, advertising sales as of 15th of June, when the hearing for an Air Service License only was held on 05th of July, following which, once and if granted an ASL, a lengthy process of undergoing audits and meeting regulatory requirements to attain the coveted Air Operator Certificate, a hurdle which going by experience many of those given an ASL then fail to accomplish has to be completed before operations can actually start. The Uganda Association of Air Operators had therefore filed an objection for failing to observe due protocol and that fact appears not to have been lost on the panel too.
As had AeroLink applied for a license to fly scheduled services to the Ugandan national parks, so did Uganda’s own Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre, which had filed an application already in January but only coming up for hearing now. KAFTC is a company already licensed as a non scheduled airline with 13 fixed wing and one rotary aircraft, aka helicopter, besides which they are licensed by the UCAA as a maintenance organization as well as a flying school.
Last up was Kenyas Phoenix aviation which proposed to introduce an MD 83 aircraft for executive charters out of Entebbe, of course a well known name across the border at Wilson Airport where Phoenix has long become part of the inventory of established charter airlines.
Surely a morning of unexpected excitement but also once again an insight into the aviation scene in Uganda, smaller than in Kenya but nevertheless vibrant too. Watch this space.