Air traffic management solutions


Tellumat Air Traffic Management (ATM), a seasoned technology and service provider in southern Africa, is extending its military success into the civil aviation space.

This business unit of the Tellumat technology group offers 35-plus years’ experience in the supply, installation, maintenance, support and upgrade of air traffic management systems, including radar systems and ground-based navigational aids. Its primary focus was the defence market, with the South African Air Force being the company’s major client.

Along the way it has built up a full service and solution portfolio, complemented by significant skills in systems and software design, solutions supply and installation, as well as maintenance support and upgrades, said managing executive Bennie Langenhoven.

The decision to give the civil aviation market equal and undiluted focus was a logical step, as it allows the unit to fully leverage its depth and breadth of technical, including software, and project skills, he maintains.

Tellumat ATM’s track record is inseparable from that of the group, whose portfolio also includes defence, manufacturing and communications.

The company traces its roots back more than a half century to the early 1960s, when UK-based Plessey set up shop in South Africa. In 1989 the local operation opted out of the UK group and in 1995 it listed on the JSE, after which Tellumat was spun out along with other group companies.

Langenhoven, whose own history at Tellumat goes back 15 years, said in years gone by Plessey supplied radar systems and instrument landing systems (ILS) to the defence and civilian markets. It also maintained these systems – in some cases for more than 30 years. Mid-life upgrades have seen some of the systems still in operation.
“With the replacement of some equipment, we have now refocused on supplying this sector. We have relationships with a number of reputable original equipment manufacturers [OEMs], including Indra and Safegate for ILS and airfield ground lighting [AGL] systems.
“We’ve already had success at various airports, and are excited to be building on that with some exciting deals in the pipeline,” he said.

The unit recently completed a large contract for upgrades at Mafikeng Airport, is currently supplying and installing an AGL system at Somerset East Airport, and has just won an AGL supply contract with the Kwandwe private game reserve in Eastern Cape.

The Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority also recently awarded a contract to Tellumat ATM to provide maintenance support to their installed base of ground-based navigation aids and radar systems. This includes the provision of engineering services and training.
“Beyond ILS and AGL systems, we’re working with a number of OEMs to provide radar and direction finders,” Langenhoven said. Tellumat ATM is adding to its Mafikeng business with installation of direction finders for ATNS (Air Traffic and Navigation Services, which controls 10% of the globe’s airspace in terms of geographical coverage).
“The objective is to grow our footprint significantly over the next two to three years and become a better recognised alternative supplier of these systems,” he said.

As this sector is contested by a number of competitors he concedes Tellumat won’t have overnight success.

But it offers something the others don’t. “Due to our legacy we have a number of unique differentiators. One of our strong points is cost-effective maintenance and support on legacy systems, a sought-after competency in southern Africa. We have a thorough understanding of radar systems, which will stand us in good stead when it comes time to supplying replacement systems.”

Other than that, Tellumat’s black economic empowerment credentials and manufacturing capability make it well equipped to assist overseas OEMs, whose local contracts often give preference to solutions with local content.

With this in mind, there is scope for considerable growth – estimates range from 15% to more than 100% year-on-year. “It is all project-based, so it’s a bit unpredictable,” Langenhoven said.

But since the value of contracts can, at times, be considerable, even low incremental growth can make a big difference to the group’s bottom line.