- Omukajunguti Airport which serve as an alternative to the current Bukoba Airport.
Dar es Salaam. The government has acknowledged that Bukoba Airport faces difficulties, particularly during the rainy season, despite the Tanzania Airports Authority's (TAA) declaration that the airport is safe for landing.
As a result, preparations are being made to build the long-awaited Omukajunguti Airport which will serve as an alternative to the current Bukoba Airport.
The government's remarks come two weeks after the Precision Air flight PW-494 with 43 passengers on board crashed into Lake Victoria, killing 19 people.
The plane crashed while attempting to land an incident that has been attributed to bad weather.
After the incident, various stakeholders in the aviation industry, including pilots and flight engineers, mentioned the Bukoba among airports that give them trouble during landing and takeoff.
They said the struggle is due to the constant change of weather that occurs, as well as the presence of mountains in the surrounding areas.
While the country continues to wait for investigation on the incident, on Thursday November 17, Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) plane failed to land at Bukoba Airport due to bad weather, a situation that forced and the pilot of the to divert the flight to Mwanza Airport, where all passengers disembarked safely.
Mr Atupele Mwakibete, the deputy minister for Works and Transport, told Mwananchi on the phone that, in addition to renovating the airport, the government plans to build another one.
"The area where the new airport is set to be constructed is the border with Uganda, we have already started looking for Sh9 billion to pay compensation to the people because the valuation was already done a long time ago," he said.
Mwakibete said the regional authority has already submitted a proposal for the construction of the new Omukajunguti Airport and they are working on it.
He, however, said that for a plane to cancel landing at Bukoba Airport, is an issue that can happen at any airport.
"It could have been Bukoba, as it happened; it could have been Mwanza, Julius Nyerere International Airport, or any airport depending on the weather at the time," he explained.
While addressing journalists on in Dar es Salaam November 10, TAA director general Mussa Mbura said safety and security of the airports is based of international technical and safety standards.
"Even before the accident there, we have never received complaints or concerns from any pilot or passengers regarding the safety of our airports, not just Bukoba but all of the airports," Mr Mbura said.
He said, according to the recent assessment of international technical and safety standards by The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Tanzania achieved a 67 percent in airport safety and security which is above the minimum requirement of 60 percent.
What experts say
Various stakeholders in the aviation industry, including pilots and flight engineers, who spoke to The Citizen recently, mentioned the Bukoba and Arusha among airports that give them trouble during landing and takeoff.
In his remarks, Captain Khalil Iqbal, secretary of the Tanzania Pilots Association (Tapa), said that taking off and landing at Bukoba and Arusha airports presents a challenge to many pilots.
He added that the nearby mountains and the unfavourable weather in the two places were a cause of concern.
He claimed that planes bound for Arusha were forced to make an emergency landing at Kilimanjaro International Airport, while those bound for Bukoba landed at Mwanza Airport.
One of the flight engineers, who did not want his name to be mentioned, said that when it comes to bad weather for airplanes, it is often during landing or takeoff, if there is fog or thunder, it can cause problems for the aircraft.
He also mentioned the problem of the smallness of Bukoba airport, explaining that it is small and sometimes it becomes difficult for large planes to land.
"The landing and take-off area of Bukoba airport is small, it requires a lot of attention for the pilot flying a large plane to land or take off, I don't know exactly what happened in the accident the other day, but there is a high possibility after meeting the weather challenge the pilot faced and the issue of the field.
On his part, while speaking exclusively to The Citizen, an expert in airport design, engineer Bennie Mushumbusi, suggested that Bukoba Airport is unfit for handling large aircraft.
According to him, initially Bukoba Airport had 1.2 kilometers runway suitable for small planes such as Twin Otter and Fokker Friendship with a capacity of carrying 11 and 28 people, respectively.
Further, he said the airport upgrading and specification has made the present runway have 1.5 kilometers long.
"The said runway cannot accommodate a large aircraft weighing above 30 kilometers that require a minimum of 2.02 kilometers according to manufacturer’s specifications," said the expert.
He further added that large planes require huge force to support take-off and landing processes, hinting that some of the engines are used during landing in the brakes backing.