Ghanaian Aviation authorities say closure of inland airport precautionary

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by Justice Lee Adoboe

ACCRA, Oct. 2 ? Ghana?s aviation authorities have explained that the closure of the inland airport in the country?s second largest city of Kumasi, 270 km north of the capital, is precautionary and intended to avoid calamities.

Director General (DG) of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Air Commodore (Air Cdre) Kwame Mamphey said the closure last Saturday was occasioned by the discovery of a gaping hole on a portion of the runway.

He said the GCAA had been monitoring the state of the runways at the country?s airstrips since they were ageing and needed regular maintenance.

?We have been very critical about the Kumasi runway because we know it has been failing and, on that particular day, our assessment team discovered a gaping hole on the runway, hence the closure to make way for remedial works,? Mamphey said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

He said the choice the authority had to make upon the discovery?was between allowing aircraft to continue using the airport that could cause disaster and closing it down temporarily for remedial works to be carried out.

?Do you allow the aircraft to operate and have a disaster? I think it is better to err on the side of caution, hence the decision to have the airport closed for these few days for remedial works to be carried out,? he said.

Mamphey insisted that the step taken was just precautionary and once the contractors, PW, had completed the remedial works, the GCAA would inspect and, if satisfied, re-open the airport, the busiest domestic airport in the country.

Asoma Banda, Chairman of the Antrak Air, an Indigenous domestic flight operator, at a press conference here Tuesday claimed that the closure of the Kumasi airport was the result of allowing heavier aircraft to use the Kumasi runway which had caused the failure of the runway.

He claimed that the Kumasi runway was not constructed for such heavier aircraft and so allowing them to operate was bringing too much pressure on the runway, leading to the cracks.

According to Banda, the GCAA had allowed a BAe 146-300 with maximum landing weight of 35,153 Kilograms (KG) to land on the runway at a time all other domestic operators were using aircraft with landing capacity between 18,300 kg and21,850 kg.

?It should be obvious which aircraft is responsible for the damage caused to the Kumasi runway,? he claimed.

He queried: ?If not, can anybody explain why the Kumasi airport has been closed for repair works on the runway three times since jets started landing in Kumasi from September?2011??

But Mamphey countered that assertion, stating that, long before he (Mamphey) started flying 34 years ago, the country?s carrier, Ghana Airways, had been flying Fokker 28s to Kumasi and Sunyani.

?Fokker 28 is heavier than the aircraft Asoma Banda is referring to, and so his claim is not professional at all,? he argued.

He assured stakeholders that the GCAA was serious about securing the lives and equipment of passengers and operators on the country?s air routes, and would make sure that the right thing was done.

Mamphey hinted that the Kumasi airport would in the near future be closed down entirely for a longer period for a comprehensive remedial work to be done on its facilities.

Last March, the GCAA sought to close down the Kumasi airport for repair work but had to cancel the program because of agitations from some of the operators.

Deputy Managing Director of the Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL) John Amedior, explained that there were various reasons for the deterioration of runways.

?If the runway is aged and water begins to sip into it, or if you have heavier aircraft landing on it, it can cause a failure of the runway,? Amedior explained.? Enditem.

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