The Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority has registered greater heights of growth, in size, operational services and importance in the recent past. With the major functions of oversight, safety and security, the Authority has even bigger ambitious plans of getting better infrastructure—through upgrading and construction of a new airport. In an interview with The New Times’ Thomas Kagera, the RCCA Director General, Dr Richard Masozera gives an insight of the RCAA journey, the current status of the aviation industry in Rwanda and what the future holds.
An autonomous body, the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority was created by law in 2004 with the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The Authority carries out specific functions of oversight, regulating air transport and ensuring that operators respect Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) spelt out by ICAO. Rwanda being a contracting state to the Chicago Convention is bound to observe such standards and practices.
The RCAA directorates include: Flight Safety, Airports, Aeronautical Navigation, Finance and Administration. The Directorate of Airports deals with the general management of airports, facilitation of baggage handling and airport infrastructure among others.
The Directorate of Flight Safety supervises the state of aircraft to be registered and the qualifications of pilots and cabin crew whereas the Directorate of Air Navigation looks at the air traffic control and air navigation equipment. The Directorate of Finance and Administration carries out the management activities and ensure the profitability of the Authority.
The Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority is at a stage where a lot of growth is getting registered; the National Airline is doing very well, and the uplift of passengers has increased from 6,000 two years ago, to about 30,000 passengers per month. This year, the Rwanda aviation industry was boosted by the entry of new airlines; South African Airways, Qatar Air and the Turkish Airlines which on May 15th had its maiden flight in the country. These have joined others which have been operational; RwandAir, SN-Brussels, KLM, Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Uganda and Emirates Cargo. These are Asian and European carriers RCAA is targeting, America-based airlines in the near future.
The increasing airline traffic has translated into a significant increase in the frequency of aircraft movement registered at the airport from 9,406 in 2007 to 17,272 in 2011 with the passenger flow including arrivals, departures, transit and domestic totaling 376,918 in 2011 from 238, 909 in 2007.
Government’s huge investments in RwandAir which now operates 13 routes from the first four have boosted the industry. Cargo flights in and out of the airport have increased.
The government of Rwanda through RCAA has already signed bilateral air service agreements with 35 countries.
Oversight, Security and Personnel
RCAA is charged with the oversight function of air transport in the country. The Authority checks standards to ensure airline personnel respect international standards, issue licenses, inspect the performance levels of the cabin crew and the training facilities.
Because of the changing technologies, RCAA has to train heavily in; the runway management, ground lighting, air traffic control and others trained in air navigation systems, radar systems and meteorology. The capacity to predict weather is a function of competent meteorology officers to man the equipment, collect, process, analyse and produce accurate information on weather.
The Authority has continuous customer-care training programmes of all the personnel that operate from the Kigali International Airport—CAA, RwandAir, Emigration and Immigration, Police and other workers that offer peripheral services. Training is followed by active hands-on supervision to eliminate any room for either laxity or complacence.
Security is an aspect that RCAA handles with utmost commitment. Because the airplanes have a very high visibility, they tend to be targets of terrorists. So RCAA invests heavily in security—personnel and equipment—to edge off any possibilities of sabotage, it also shares information with other stakeholders—local and international players.
Aviation is a resource intensive industry and so the government of Rwanda has heavily invested in new technology and equipment including modern ICT servies, scanners and walkthrough doors to ensure that passengers spend as little time as possible in the process of clearing buggage and cargo.
With the increasing flow of passengers, the pressure on the infrastructure has increased, which calls for upgrading of the available facilities to suit the increasing demand for services. Upgrading the terminal at the Kigali International Airport will start in the next one or two months.
Plans for more facilities like expanded duty free shops, business lounges, restaurants, washrooms, book stores, luggage belts, and check-in decks are underway.
RCAA plans to double the number of check-in desks from the current 8 to 16. More space for arrival areas is to be increased including providing more luggage belts with a capacity to handle about 150 bags at ago per belt from the current 80 bags. The departure and arrival areas will be separated. The intention is to provide International Air Travel Association [IATA] Level C standards at Kigali International Airport.
Elevators to cater for the disabled and the elderly will be introduced and RCAA plans to buy more equipment like push-backs and stair cases to ensure efficient use of available space and serve more planes and passengers at the same time. Plans are also underway to invest more in: The Radar Control System, Baggage handling system and Flight Information Display System.
Upcountry aerodromes have also registered a surge in the numbers of flights and passengers. In 2007 domestic passengers were 4,084 compared to 20,931 in 2011.
Improving the aerodromes has therefore been given priority with a new terminal at Kamembe under construction of whose runway is to be resurfaced and lengthened to enable it accommodate medium size jets so as to reduce the number of journeys. The Gisenyi aerodrome will also be upgraded for the same intent.
New Bugesera International Airport
This is one of the priority projects for the government. Given the increasing pressure at the Kigali International Airport and the vision of making Rwanda an aviation hub in the region, it was deemed fit to open new opportunities with the construction of New Bugesera International Airport (NBIA). The multi million project will be brought into being under a Public Private Partnership arrangement. The technical and feasibility studies and the architectural designs have all been completed. The financial bid has been offered and some key players have already expressed interest in the partnership.
Bugesera will be a full service international airport serving the interests of Rwanda, and expanding into a gateway that will link the the region to the rest of the world. With time, it is expected to grow into an important aviation hub. Other than opening new employment opportunities, the project will increase the volume of arrivals—both for cargo and passengers—the majority of who are expected to be traders and tourists.
The RCAA is in advanced stages of cooperation with the other East African Community member states under the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Agency--CASSOA. Rwanda is a member of CASSOA (comprised of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) which has been in existence for 5 years with headquarters at Entebbe, Uganda. The Managing Directors of the aviation bodies in the 5 respective countries, who as well form the CASSOA Board of Governors, meet quarterly to deliberate on policy and technical issues.
Mid-level managers—Technical Personnel, Air-worth Engineers, Airport Managers, Finance Managers, among others—also meet regularly to address issues in their respective domains of operation. Member states contribute to the sustenance of the secretariat.
The CASSOA secretariat is at the fore of enhancing harmonisation of regulations, technical guidance materials and standards for engineers, pilots and cabin crew. The regulations and standards are generated at a regional level and then domesticated by the respective countries.
Member states are looking forward to empowering the Agency with more technical and managerial responsibilities.
The Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority is ready and committed to playing the role of promoting air transport industry by providing high standards of security and safety, the best customer care to all travellers and to give the industry an international outlook.
In RCAA’s 5 year business plan, the airport will become a business centre as well with hotels, shopping malls and other commercial facilities. This is an important juncture in the history of Rwanda’s economic history and all those with ability should seize the opportunity to reap from the robust growth the economy experiences.