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Passengers travelling from Ghana to other African destinations or arriving in Ghana from the region are expected to have easier connections as domestic airlines begin to ply regional routes.
The move, which is in support of the concept to make Ghana the aviation hub of West Africa, will offer transit passengers from some of the sahelian regions such as Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, easier connections to European, American and South East Asian destinations, through direct flights from Ghana.
Currently, passengers from those countries go through a laborious process of hopping round about two stops via Europe before they are connected to their final destinations in say South East Asia.
Developing sub regional routes by the Ghanaian registered carriers is, therefore, expected to be a major boost for major international airlines such as British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Delta Airlines, Emirates, South African Airlines and Turkish Airlines, which have direct non-stop flights from Ghana to the destinations where the passengers wish to fly to.
The Director-General of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, Air Commodore Kwame Mamphey (retd), told graphic.com.gh that encouraging domestic carriers to develop regional routes was also part of leveraging the highly recognised safety records the aviation sector in Ghana had attained over the years.
The industry for the past decade and especially over the past three years has grown at an average rate of 20 per cent, taking many industry players by surprise.
The GCAA has achieved a lot in the sector among its peers in Africa and has a worldwide recognition for its safety records and this it hopes to put to use in making the country the aviation hub of West Africa and to a large extent, the entire sub-Saharan African region.
“We are encouraging the domestic operators (Ghanaian registered aircraft) to start operations within the West African sub-region. Most have applied and have received the necessary reviews and approvals. In a month or two, we should hear the announcements from some of the local carriers to regional destinations,” Cdr Mamphey said, adding that the underlining principle factor for advantage was the safety and security.
It is now established that passengers from Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger all prefer to use Ghana as a hub, as they find it much easier to fly through Ghana than other destinations. Authorities in those countries are also pushing that Ghanaian carriers start operating into their countries.
“This is why our carriers should also begin to operate into those countries so that they can connect them to bigger carriers that fly from Kotoka. The hub concept is going on well and we expect our local carriers to start flying into those markets very soon,” the GCAA director general stated.
He added that the continued presence of most of the legacy carriers, such as Lufthansa, KLM, BA flying and expanding schedules into Accra, meant that the country had worldwide coverage that would serve the interest of the travelling public across Africa.
To make a hub concept workable, airport infrastructure and facilities need to be in place, which the airport operator, the Ghana Airport Company, is earnestly dealing with.
graphic.com.gh has learnt that the airport company has completed designs for the expansion of car parks and the building of adjacent hotels and facilities, such as transit hotels.
The airport company has also secured funding for the construction of aircraft parking lots and gates in response to the growing aircraft influx into Ghana.
The GCAA has also installed modern equipment at the Air Traffic Control Tower, with radars in place for navigational communications for airspaces in Ghana, Togo, Benin, and the oceanic airspace. The system upgrade included the acquisition of a new state-of-the-art, Doppler Very High Frequency Omni-Range (DVOR) and Distance Measuring Equipment (DME).
The Authority has also installed an Automatic Dependence Surveillance-Contract (ADSC)/Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) to allow Air Traffic Controllers and pilots to communicate via a data link system.
Aviation industry in Ghana
The aviation industry in Ghana has experienced phenomenal growth recently, with international and regional aircraft movement increasing over 100 per cent from13 about five years ago to 30, as of last year. Two more carriers, including the British Airways-owned Iberia Airways from Spain, are expected to start operations into Kotoka this year.
Passenger throughput for both the domestic and international destinations has also moved by 100 per cent, records from the GCAA indicate.
The airline industry growth in Ghana is happening at a time when the country has found oil and mining activities are at record high.
Again, major regions and countries such as the Eurozone, the United States of America and the United Kingdom are facing financial crisis which is compelling businesses and investors to turn to Africa for opportunities.
However, Cdr Mamphey said, Ghana’s own liberalised aviation regime, prudent management of the aviation sector as well as the development strategy of the GCAA were major attractions to the carriers and aviation industry players.
Impact on other sectors
The aviation sector is a catalyst to development and as such the oil and gas and mining industries are the major beneficiaries of a growing aviation sector. Indeed, a growing middle class and the opening of business opportunities in many parts of the country are also being fuelled by a thriving aviation industry.
The GCAA has responded appropriately to the growing trend in the industry with relevant laws that would enable it to maintain its safety and security standards, while making the country an attractive destination for airlines.
“With the growing and there has been the need to amend regulations to conform to standards and practices of international civil aviation. The last reviewed regulations came into effect in December 2011,” Cdr Mamphey explained.
The new reviews bring improvements in air navigation, aeronautical communications, aerodromes and security and such allied areas.
Ghana is a signatory to all major international aviation bodies and groupings, including the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the Banjul Accord Group, where it contributes to the knowledge and expertise in world aviation standards and also bring back international treaties and recommendations which it domesticates.
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