Sunday, March 3, 2013

■ CONGO (KINSHASA): New national carrier to début in June as Government moves to recertify all Congolese carriers under IATA supervision.

DRCJustin Kalunga, the Democratic Republic of Congo's Minster of Transport, says a new national airline has already been white-papered and approved by his government with a new strategic partner set to be chosen in due course. The new airline, due to take delivery of its first aircraft in June, will replace the current quasi-defunct national carrier, LAC Lignes Aériennes Congolaises (4V). The move is one of the initiatives the Congolese are undertaking to ameliorate the country's poor aviation safety record and international image.

Speaking to Congolese Television regarding the current state of the aviation industry in Congo, Mr Kalunga said that in addition to a new carrier being established, his ministry, on 18 February, embarked on a re-certification exercise of all Congolese airlines (24 in total), under the guidance of IATA. The ICAO had previously set a deadline of 25 February for the exercise to be completed, in addition to the recalibration of the country's ageing aviation infrastructure, some of which has been neglected since the 80s.

In addition to the recertification exercise, Mr Kalunga said Kinshasa's drive to upgrade the country's various airports and airfields was on track, with the runway refurbishment project at Kinshasa's N'Djili International Airport set to conclude shortly. The construction of a new Cargo Terminal, ATC Tower, Fire Station, power plant and Passenger Terminal are all set to start this year.

The N'djili project falls under the African Development Bank's USD 150million Priority Air Safety Project (PPSA) partly funded by the World Bank, which is rehabilitating infrastructure and modernizing air navigation equipment at the DRC's principal airports namely: Kinshasa/N'djili, Lubumbashi/Luano, Kisangani/Bangboka and Goma. Ultimately, Mr Kalunga says, the goal is to have between "3 to 5" Congolese airports conforming to ICAO standards by 2016.

Kinshasa will also receive help from Brussels with whom it recently signed a renewed Bilateral Air Services Agreement in which the latter pledged to aide Congo's quest to be stricken off the European Union's No Fly Ban.