Note from the Editor
Welcome to the first issue of this newsletter. I am very excited to launch this newsletter which will inform and inspire you on the latest developments in the air transport sector and general aviation in Namibia. This edition is dedicated to the current challenges general aviation faces in Namibia.
In order to bring you up-to-the-minute GA news, the positive and inspirational stories, as well as the difficult ones, AOPA will publish a quarterly newsletter to that effect.
All contributions will be welcome, in actual fact, your contributions will contribute to the success of this newsletter.
In addition, any suggestion for a name of this “newsletter” would be appreciated. Some names that came up were Bulletin, NOTAM, Airmail, etc.
Airmail Newsletter Editor
Message from the President
Taking stock of our wounds
Aviation seems to be living through a never-ending nightmare. The only solace is that it’s not just Namibian aviation that has been devastated by this cruel virus. Literally hundreds of air-lines worldwide have gone belly-up since January 2020 and the number of smaller aviation charter companies that will never fly again, is unfathomable.
In Namibia, most aviation charter companies rely almost solely on tourism as their source of revenue and Corona has impacted tourism more severely than any other sector of the global economy. Namibian tourism is no exception.
We’ve all seen pictures of the many thousands of once proud flying ma-chines lying abandoned in neat rows on every available open patch of land at airports throughout the planet. Who would have imagined that we would live through such a doomsday scenario.
In April 2021, AOPA Namibia decided to take stock of the situation both internationally and at home in Namibia. We called for a meeting of members at the Kraal in Windhoek and presented some of the alarming statistics, hot off the ICAO press at the time. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the image below tells the story of aviation and Corona.
So let’s take a look at the ICAO predictions as we presented them in April and com-pare them to the reality on the ground today, three months later. As can be seen in the ICAO chart below, even the worst-case prediction (scenario 2) shows a steep increase in tourism numbers throughout 2021.
But with the benefit of only three months of hindsight, for us in Namibia, the predictions could not have got it more wrong. It all seemed to be going according to plan in May and even the more optimistic scenario above seemed to be closer to the truth.
Tourism and hence aviation had begun showing a promising trend. Lodges were fill-ing up as were the order books of our aviation charter companies. With the smell of avgas and Jet A1 in the air again and the addictive sound of aircraft taking off at Eros airport again, spirits were high and we were all feeling quite bullish about the future for our industry. And then the delta variant pulled the proverbial carpet out from un-der our feet. Lodge bookings were suddenly cancelled, and air charter lists evaporated like the morning mist. None of the ICAO projections were able to predict the arrival of the delta variant, which as we now know, is far more contagious than any previous variants.
The graph below shows ICAO generated passenger numbers and seat capacity updated to the end of June. Data generated just two weeks ago shows that even under the worst-case scenario, we are likely to see a steady rise in aviation passenger numbers for Q3 and Q4 2021.
And then came Delta! As I write this, news of the delta wave washing over Europe is on each of the international media channels. Countries such as the U.K. prematurely dropped their guards in a desperate attempt to get back to some form of normalcy, and now they’re paying the price. Covid cases and deaths are on a steep rise.
The only hope, it would seem, is that most European countries have been aggressive in their drive to vaccinate their populations. But the question remains, how effective will the vaccines be against the new mutations? Only time will tell.
So where does that leave our tiny, beleaguered aviation industry? If only we had a crystal ball. It now seems certain that our predictions of a recovery to positive cashflow will only be seen in 2022. Let’s plan for the worst and hope for the best!
So, what has AOPA Namibia been doing over the past 18 months? The assessment of the likely impact of COVID was a priority for AOPA in early 2020, but at the same time we were dealing with a barrage of issues, mainly relating to over-regulation from the NCAA.
And if that weren’t enough, the NAC began issuing eviction notices and new restrictive hours of operations at many airports, in an attempt to get their house in order, following the appointment of Bisey Uirab, their new CEO.It seemed as though we were under a direct frontal attack from all directions, just when we could least afford it.
The AOPA Namibia Aviation Industry Survey
In March 2020, we conducted a comprehensive survey of the local aviation industry in an effort to understand what we were in for with COVID and especially what sort of stimulus package we should request from the Ministry of Finance. The response from all aviation operators was overwhelming. The following are some of the conclusions of our survey:
Fifteen Companies representing almost the entire private sector aviation industry were represented in the pre and post Covid-19 cash-flow survey. Certain assumptions regarding the market turn-around were agreed by the AOPA committee and key aviation companies.
It was clear that without a significant financial grant to be de-ployed over three years, the Namibian aviation industry is likely to be destroyed by Covid-19, with many companies facing permanent closure. Whilst some consolidation of our aviation industry is inevitable and there will necessarily be casualties, the sort of negative cashflow numbers expected by most aviation companies was seen to be unsustainable.
Our calculations showed that we needed a cash injection of 170 Million NAD over three years, without which the industry would face near complete collapse and may never recover.
We pointed out to the Minister of Finance and his management team that alt-hough a small employer (~450 direct employees), commercial aviation in Namibia is a gateway industry of the highest international standard, employ-ing highly skilled staff. It forms vital linkages for the Namibian economy. The multiplier effect of a failed aviation industry is disastrous to the economy of the country.
Linkages include tourism - conservation and communal conservancy support, urgent/valuable cargo, med-ical rescue, business/corporate charters, mineral exploration etc.). Additionally, the NCAA and NAC will be rendered unviable with the collapse of the aviation industry.
If this occurs, Namibia stands to lose international air access through non-compliance with international aviation treaties.
As expected, our survey showed that aviation companies focused on tourism would be worst affected. 5 out of 15 companies did not show a recovery/turn-around to positive cash-flow at all and are predicting imminent closure.
Ten out of fifteen companies show a return to viability, but most only by mid-2022 (2 years of negative cashflow) with the earliest date of return to positive cashflow being Nov 2021. We pointed out that loans alone are not a solution as the industry is high cost/low margin and consequently, the ability of aviation companies to amortize even soft loans, would be doubtful.
Following our detailed calculations based on international predictions of the global post-Covid recovery, we officially pointed out to MoF that the private sector aviation industry would need a cash injection of N$ 177 million, disbursed over 24 months, beginning May 2020. We showed that the industry is suffering from short term liquidity is-sues (temporary cashflow relief), not-long term sustainability issues. Our stimulus package request was as follows:
Before 31 Dec 2020, the industry required an injection of N$ 70 million, a further N$ 82 million before 31 Dec 2021 and a further N$ 25 million before 31 May 2022.
Lamentably, when the final stimulus packages were announced by the Minister of Fi-nance Hon. Shiimi on 27th April 2020, it was clear that the packages were poorly craft-ed with insufficient private sector engagement. The relief offered revolved around sup-port for salaries of employees, rather than providing for essential funding that would al-low our companies to survive.
The offer of 25% support towards employees’ salaries had little to no effect as it came with the caveat that only those companies that had not retrenched employees were eligible to receive the stimulus packages. Notwithstanding the MoL directive not to re-trench employees, most employers had no choice but to retrench many and in some cases most of their employees and were thus not eligible to receive the 25% salary support from GRN. As history has shown, those companies that retrenched employees earlier rather than later, stood a far better chance of survival than those that delayed the inevitable.
So ultimately, the owners and shareholders stepped in to support their cashflows, many cashing in their hard-earned pensions and many selling the very aircraft that were their raison d’etre. Countless aircraft were disassembled, containerized and sold to the USA while some were sold locally to private individuals.
In a desperate measure of survival, the shareholders of our aviation companies were committed to contributing what-ever they could, but as we pointed out to GRN, unless there would be a rapid turn-around in the global economy and especially tourism, ultimately the only lifeline for our industry would be some form of concessional funding (e.g. a grant). Even soft loans would not be good enough.
Not to be defeated, we implored MoF to reconsider the useless stimulus package offered to us and we even pointed out that should real financial support be forthcoming, the industry would be prepared to accept a temporary taxation surcharge for a fixed period of time post-Covid. We recommended that MoF should reconsider their stimulus package and rather offer equitable grants to the public and private aviation sectors, based on pure business bona fides. We pointed out the dangers of not supporting and sustaining our local aviation industry, not least of which would be the importation of aviation services and the flight of revenue to other countries.
All of our efforts were to no avail. The stimulus packages are seen by the private sector as an abject failure on the part of GRN. Aviation, Tourism and Construction companies were down the creek without the proverbial paddle.
Picking up the pieces. Where to from here?
Prior to Covid, AOPA Namibia had more than 160 pilot members and most Aviation Companies. As such it is the mouth-piece of the industry. The Aviation Indus-try is a fundamental cog in many parts of the economy.
Without a healthy aviation industry, many other sectors of the economy will become unviable, and the aviation business revenue will be externalized. The industry is export focused generating much needed hard currency for Namibia.
The new AOPA Namibia structure
I took on the role of President of AOPA Namibia just as the first wave of the pandemic swept us off our feet. It immediately became clear to me that if AOPA Namibia is to offer the sort of support and advocacy the industry needs during this time of crisis, we would require a different structure and a solid funding base. It is no longer good enough that passionate aviators such as myself and my predecessors, could perform the functions required of AOPA on a part time basis, while holding down real day jobs.
We need to have a permanent (or at the very least semi-permanent) executive. This would mean seeking and finding a highly competent CEO on a salary paid partly or in full by AOPA. In addition, the CEO would need the services of a Secretary/Office Manager, also on a full time or part time, but salaried basis. Ideally, the CEO would head up several committees, each reflecting the departments of the NCAA. The CEO would report into a board comprising of key individuals each with a specific skill set. It is imperative that individuals on the board would not be conflicted in any way, and as such, could not be involved with or represent any aviation company.
We presented our proposal, including the new membership and funding structure to approximately fifty members (the maximum allowable in a gathering) at the Kraal in Windhoek on the 17th April. The proposal received unanimous support from members as well as from the existing AOPA committee. Richard Becker was selected and confirmed as the interim CEO. Richard comes with enormous aviation experience as an oversight training captain. He’s also extremely well versed in the Namibian CATS and CARS and ICAO SARP’s. Despite the constant headwinds from our regulator, he has established solid relations with the NCAA having worked there in a senior advisory capacity before joining Westair recently.
Please join me in welcoming Richard. Kathrin Schneider continues to be the indomitable Duracell bunny, always willing to lend a helping hand with whatever issues we face. Together with Richard and Kathrin, as if we were waiting with eyes skyward for manna from heaven, suddenly out of the blue Christian Sell (known to us as Jochie) returned from Abu Dhabi and has offered his full commitment to establish-ing and supporting aviation in whatever way he can.
Jochie told me that he was born a Namibian, but will die an aviator. Many of you will remember Jochie as our Chief ATC for many years and the part of the management team of the DCA. He brings a wealth of experience with him, not only in aviation matters but also in conflict resolution towards the desired outcome. I am excited about the addition of Richard and Jochie to the AOPA team. Finally, our dream of establishing a (more or less) full time executive team, comprising of top aviation professionals is a reality.
The PROFIT (towards float, additional legal fees, clubhouse etc.) will be:
- N$ 23,500/month or N$ 282,000/annum
At this juncture, I would like to thank the existing AOPA committee for their tire-less support over the most trying time for aviation, this while their companies are barely able to scrape through each month.
For those of you who weren’t able to at-tend the Kraal meeting, please review the new structure as explained in the article in this newsletter. Aviation is on its knees. If you’re passionate about staying in the air above our wonderful country, please consider giving us your full support. The new membership form is in this newsletter and I’m sure you’ll agree, the rates for each category of membership are reasonable and affordable, even under the present economic circumstances.
We ask that you establish which category of membership is appropriate for you or your company before completing the membership form and submitting your membership fee. Feel free to phone our AOPA Secretary Katrin to discuss your membership category. Without a solid funding base, we simply cannot carry out the sort of advocacy our industry requires at this difficult juncture.
I look forward to seeing you at the AOPA fly-in at the Oanob dam in October where we plan to share much more in-formation about the changes taking place. Until then, keep looking skyward and never give up.
AOPA Namibia President
From the CEO's Desk
The Executive Committee (Exco) of AOPA Namibia has recently restructured the board and Exco of the association. The most momentous change is the appointment of a full time CEO and Secretariat. This will ensure that AOPA will be able to provide adequate attention to the numerous challenges faced by the industry, not least of which is improved communication with the NCAA, NAC and all other stakeholders in the aviation industry.
The new structure of AOPA will en-sure that we will be able to establish committees that mirror the departments of the NCAA amongst others. The committees will be headed by individuals with the appropriate knowledge and experience who can meaningfully support and contribute towards the same or similar departments and committees of the NCAA, as is the requirement per the NAMCARS.
The new AOPA structure was ratified and it is an honour for me to serve as the new CEO. I will report into a new AOPA board, comprising of professionals who, in order to avoid conflicts of interest, are not professionally involved in the aviation industry, but are well versed on matters of governance, advocacy and business.
It is our stated intention to, support, aid and abet the NCAA in the fulfillment of its functions and duties and in compliance with the ICAO. To this end, the first task will be to appoint heads of the various committees who will identify the major challenges and opportunities faced by the industry.
The heads of these committees and/or the CEO, will represent AOPA at the equivalent committees of the NCAA.I am also pleased to inform you that we have managed the delay of the promulgation of regulation 10 (relating to Part 139) which comes into effect as follows: (i) Subpart 4 in relation to aerodromes in Category D, and Subpart 5 in relation to aerodromes in Category E, and any provision in Part 139 that refers to a Category D or E aerodrome, come into operation on 1 April 2022.
In the meantime, we had fruitful discus-sions with the CEO of the NAC and his management team. More on the later in this news letter.
AOPA Namibia CEO
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Meeting with the NAC CEO
We had a very fruitful meeting with the CEO of NAC and his management team on the 06th July 2021.
AOPA was represented by Richard Becker, Jochie Sell, Pasquale Scaturro and myself, who chaired the meeting.
The agenda was at follows:
- AOPA’s letter to the CEO of NAC dated 8th June 2021 re the conditions and services of the NAC airports and NAC’s response to our letter.
- Letter to the CEO of NAC dated 4th July 2021 re the frustration experienced by pilots and operators at the Keetmanshoop and Lu-deritz airports, specifically the complaints received from Jan Friede (re Lüderitz) and Werner Stolze (re Keetmanshoop), and NAC’s response to our letter.
- AOPA Namibia’s recommendation to NAC that their business model, which is based on the NAC being a profitable commercial enterprise, is flawed and that we would like to offer our assistance to come up with a viable business model aligned with the appropriate legislation and regulations.
Mr. Uirab was very clear about his intentions during his tenure as the CEO of NAC. He stated that at the end of his tenure, he would like to see a very healthy and vibrant aviation sector supported by a high level of service by a successful NAC.
Having stated his clear intentions, Mr. Uirab set the tone for extremely positive discussions regarding how we could work together to achieve his goals, which are fully aligned with AOPA’s goals.
The meeting agreed to set up two committees:
- A “Regulations Committee” that was tasked to establish what, if any legislation prevented the NAC from downgrading airports to Category D or E, so that they could be opened up to all hours of operations, with-out ATC and emergency staff and equipment. In other words, what is hampering the “deregulation” of the less busy airports so that they become easily available to all flights during all hours at affordable rates. This is very much aligned with AOPA’s work on the removal of over-regulation for category D and E airports.
- A “Business Plan Committee” that was tasked with working together to find a working business model for NAC, that would result in the stimulation and growth of the aviation sector and allow the NAC to become a viable entity. This is fully aligned with the stated intentions of the CEO, Mr. Uirab. The members of this committee from our side are still to be decided upon.
During this discussion, Pasquale presented a lot of detail about how deregulated the U.S.A. airports are, being the country with the largest aviation industry in the world. It was suggest-ed that the NAC learn from the American experience. Richard will lead this committee from AOPA’s side and will involve Jochie and possibly others from AOPA.
Richard will ensure that the committees are established in a timely fashion and provide timelines for meetings, agreed outcomes and conclusions.
It is my belief that as long as we have this level of enthusiasm and positive intent, with hard work and dedication we can remove our frustrations surrounding poor service delivery at excessive prices, poor physical conditions and ultimately we could assist the NAC to become viable entity (post COVID).
Uis Fly-in – 12 June, 2021
The 6th Uis Fly-In took place on the 12th of July, 2021. LISAMA (Light Sport and Amateur-build Aircraft Association of Namibia) has again organized this event. 18 pilots and their co-pilots/navigators showed their skills in various disciplines. A total of 35 small aircraft, helicopters and microlights took part in the event, which maintained all the necessary Covid 19 precautions throughout the weekend.
It is for that reason, that the number of spectators was also restricted.
Our friends, the usual participants from South Africa could unfortunately not take part in the event, as Upington is still closed for all flights to Namibia amongst others. However, Dirk Reich from Switzerland did not want to miss this event and arrived against all odds and arrived from Switzerland on Friday morning and left Namibia again on Sunday night!
The organizers were incredibly pleased about the event. This was echoed by all visitors as well. A huge thanks and appreciation were expressed towards all the sponsors and helpers of this event. During the fly-in a Namibian team consisting of 5 aircraft and a replacement aircraft will participate at the Rally World Champion-ship in Stellenbosch/ South Africa in November 2021. This event has been cancelled in the meantime...
The results of the "Fly In" 2021:
- Winner of the navigation exercise: Dirk Reich
- Winner of the point landing: Nadia Braune
- Best Radio: Laura Braune
- Best airmanship: Michael Tröh
The overall winners of this event were:
- First place: Dirk Reich and Rodrik van Neel
- Second place: David Francis and Kai Rubow
- Third place: Gero Bajorat and Johan Botes
Social Event – Lake Oanob Fly-in
We are hard at getting the facilities and the landing strip at Lake Oanob ready for the next big event planned from the 07th to 10th October 2021. The fly-in will be combined with an Oktoberfest.
The ablution facilities are being finalized and the parking area for the many aircraft we expect to arrive.
We will have approximately 20 tents available for those who want to camp. Bring your own bedding and towels with you.
May I use the following quote to conclude:
“Pilots are a rare kind of human. They leave the ordinary surface of the word, to purify their soul in the sky, and they come down to earth, only after receiving the communion of the infinite."
I trust that all of you will enjoy this upcoming event.
Lake Oanob Fly-in Organizer
Lake Oanob Airfield Credentials
The “credentials” of lake Oanob air-field is as follows:
- CO-ORD: 23 18 32 S, 17 02 19 E
- RWY: 14/32
- LENGTH: TBA
- ELEV: 4872ft /1485 m
- FREQ: 124.8 Mhz (will get a dedicated frequency for the event)
- NOTE: Left-hand circuits only unless otherwise directed by AFIS