Night flights grounded at Wonderboom National Airport due to defective runway lights
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Pretoria - The City of Tshwane-run Wonderboom National Airport has been plunged into yet another crisis after all its night flights were grounded due defective runway lights.
The metro issued a notice to airmen, known as Notam, in December to revoke the rights of the airport to conduct night operations.
In March last year, the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) had intervened at the airport by stopping its night flights for virtually the same reasons.
At the time, the authority discovered that the runway, threshold and end lights at the airport were in poor working condition. It was also found that the airport was non-compliant with the rescue and fire-fighting requirements.
City spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the faulty lights were mainly due to excessive rains during December last year.
The lighting system repair would be finalised before the end of the second week of this month.
As far as Bokaba was concerned, the situation won’t negatively affect the airport operating licence.
He said the runway lighting system was refurbished in March last year and the replacement of the entire system was delayed due to budgetary constraints and have been prioritised in the Medium Term Revenue and Expenditure Framework period.
There were criticisms that the facility was under poor management, but Bokaba dismissed that as untrue, saying it was run competently and professionally.
He said there were no audit compliance findings by SACAA against the aviation rescue and firefighting airport last year “as it was not an airport licence requirement for the airport to be audited as it is licensed as a CAT 2 airport."
Delays to repair the lights have caused tension between the management and airport stakeholders.
Airport manager Nnditsheni Madavha had accused some stakeholders of sabotage after they allegedly orchestrated a break-in and vandalism.
This emerged in a letter written to Madavha by a law firm, JB Haasbroek Attorneys, representing those implicated in acts of sabotage.
The attorneys took Madavha to task for allegations that some group members sabotaged work at the airport, saying it was not true.
“The unwarranted and untimely allegations come at a time where all parties should rather be focusing on finding a solution for the prevailing crisis, being the Notam due to non-operational runway lights,” they wrote.
They further challenged Madhava to confirm whether the matter had been reported to the police given the serious nature of sabotage allegations.
This week, the Wonderboom Airport Interest Group (WAIG) wrote to the City, asking to cover the cost of the repair, which was said to be about R15 000.
“WAIG has established that the cost to replace the threshold lights, which to our outstanding is the direct cause of the Notam not being lifted, would cost about R15 000,” the group wrote.
The Pretoria News understands that the supplier was awaiting a purchase order to commence with the repairs.
In an internal memo issued recently, Madavha promised that the airport management was attending to the problem “as a matter of priority and urgency” to "in consideration of resumption of business activities from the festive season".
In 2019, the City “self-downgraded” itself from the airport’s category 5 status to level 2 for non-compliance with the aerodrome licence regulations.
Last year, it reclaimed its category 5 status and the roads and transport MMC Dikeledi Selowa believed the airport was a strategic asset to the City.
Bokaba said the City was concerned that the current situation “has an adverse effect on night flight operations as the ground lighting system is especially required for charter flights departing or arriving after dawn and departing before sunrise; for the training of pilots needing night flight training; arriving/departing emergency flights as well as arriving or departing VIP or Diplomatic flights".