Faulty airport equipment causes airlines to cancel flights into Bulawayo

BULAWAYO – Flights into Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport were disrupted from last Saturday until Monday after airport navigation equipment broke down, ZimLive has learnt.

Fastjet and Air Zimbabwe were the most affected.

Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport manager Passmore Dewa said: “I can confirm that we had a situation of planes failing to land. The navigation equipment that aids airplanes to land developed faults due to thunderstorms.

“The equipment was fixed on Monday and flights are back on schedule.”

The broken-down equipment is believed to include radio beacons which transmit nondirectional signals to help pilots determine their bearings.

Low cloud cover and the faulty ground equipment made landing unsafe. Fastjet, which has evening flights into Bulawayo, cancelled its flights from Johannesburg on Saturday evening and Sunday.

Air Zimbabwe, which operates an Embraer ERJ145 between Harare and Bulawayo, twice failed to land on Sunday and Monday morning resulting in pilots returning to Harare.

South Africa’s Airlink, the third commercial airline using the airport, continued operating as normal but shifted its time of arrival in Bulawayo past mid-day when there is improved visibility.

An aviation expert said: “When there is low cloud cover, that’s when you need maximum use of your ground navigation equipment. With bigger aircraft pilots can do what we call blind landing, but the risk increases with smaller aircraft. That’s why, for instance, Airlink with the bigger Embraer E190 took a calculated risk of landing where Air Zimbabwe and Fastjet which use the smaller ERJ145 could not.”

Zimbabwe’s airports are not the safest to land at for pilots, although accidents are rare. Last month, parliament’s budget committee revealed that the country’s airports were operating without any radar systems to guide air traffic controllers.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe has requested US$3.5 million

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