Namibia inaugurates new Thales air traffic control centre


Namibia’s new air traffic control centre has become operational, having recently been inaugurated during a ceremony attended by the country’s president. Namibia signed a contract for the system with Thales three years ago.

Under the contract, Thales supplied the latest version of its Eurocat system, which fuses data from co-mounted Thales primary and secondary radars at Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport as well as from WAM1 stations supplied by ERA.

Thales has commissioned more than 160 Eurocat centres around the world, equivalent to 2 000 controller positions. It has supplied air traffic management systems to Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Eurocat incorporates flight plan and ADS-C data into the display system. Thanks to Eurocat’s advanced functionality, Namibian Directorate of Civil Aviation (NDCA) controllers are now able to guide aircraft anywhere within Namibia’s flight information region with high levels of precision, safety and security, Thales says.

Namibia’s new air traffic control centre was inaugurated on December 7 at a ceremony in Windhoek that was attended by President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

ERA on December 20 last year said that its Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) system deployed across Namibia achieved operational status. The WAM system received ICAO certification as safe and capable of supporting aircraft separations as low as 10 nautical miles across Namibian air space.

Prior to the deployment of the new ATM system, Namibian airspace was managed exclusively by radio communication and aircraft were separated by ICAO procedural separation standards. With the new surveillance system aircraft are now separated by 10 nautical miles. The system is capable to handle a reduced separation of about 5 nautical miles within the Terminal Control Area provided the runway is served by rapid exit taxi way, ERA said.

The system deployed by ERA under contract with Thales consists of 36 ground stations deployed across the entire country. Tobias Günzel, Deputy Director: Aviation, Administration and Navigation for the Namibian Civil Aviation Directorate said, “As a result of the WAM system performance we have already begun to deploy an extension of the WAM system around Walvis Bay and in Caprivi with additional extensions being contemplated to provide WAM redundancy for Hosea Kutako International Airport as well as Eros Airport. This would increase the number of ground stations to 54.”

Namibia is investing significantly in its aviation infrastructure. At the beginning of last year it was announced that over the next five years Namibia will invest 1.5 billion Namibian dollars (R1.2 billion) on upgrading five of the country’s airports, allowing two major airports to accept any sized aircraft, including super jumbo jets.

The state-owned Namibia Airports Company (NAC) said in a statement that the improvements would enable it to offer round-the-clock service from the Hosea Kutako International Airport (45 km outside Windhoek) and Walvis Bay airport, and allow them to operate wide body aircraft.

The company has spent R120 million on runway rehabilitation at Hosea Kutako, its biggest undertaking since it was built, and is financed partly by the Namibian Ministry of Works and Transport. In addition, NAC also plans to build a new passenger arrivals terminal, an office block and a head office at Hosea Kutako.

Hosea Kutako is Namibia’s only international airport and handles over 640 000 passengers and 14 000 aircraft movements a year. Its runway is 4 532 metres long.

At the Walvis Bay airport (15 km east of the town) NAC will expand the terminal and refurbish the old taxiway and apron, at a cost of around R37 million. The increased terminal capacity would boost passenger movement from 50 passengers an hour to 250 passengers an hour, paired with increased retail offerings.
“The Walvis Bay fishing export industry will also benefit greatly from this expansion as traffic will return to the area, resulting in lower transport costs of particularly fish exports to international markets,” the company said.

In addition, certain projects to increase safety and security would be undertaken at Windhoek’s smaller Eros airport and the Lüderitz airport. Eros, 5 km from Windhoek’s central business district, is the NAC’s busiest airport. It has a 2 229 metre long runway. It was recently upgraded with an Air Cargo Terminal, car parks and renovation of the terminal and Customs and Excise buildings.

Many of Namibia’s airports have been upgraded or are currently completing various upgrades designed to promote economic and social development. In November 2004 President Sam Nujoma launched a 256.6 million Namibian dollar (R300 million) project for the rehabilitation and upgrading of airports and civil aviation infrastructure around the country.

NAC started operations in 1999 and currently owns and operates eight airports, including Hosea Kutako International, Eros, Walvis Bay, Keetmanshoop, Luderitz, Rundu, Katima Mulilo and Ondangwa.

Namibia’s state-owned airline, Air Namibia, was established to develop the tourism sector and facilitate trade and is also being improved. Air Namibia is in the process of refining its business model, which entails upgrading and modernising its fleet, improving connectivity of its network, as well as introducing flights on new city pairs in the region.

The airline contributes around 1.9% (N$1.5 billion) to Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for 2.5% of total employment in the country. Last year it took delivery of two Airbus A319s and three Embraer ERJ 135s.