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Overaged aircraft face ban - Measure to ensure crew, passenger safety

BY: Maclean Kwofi
Charles Kraikue (left), Director-General, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, in an interview with Maclean Kwofi, journalist, Daily Graphic
Charles Kraikue (left), Director-General, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, in an interview with Maclean Kwofi, journalist, Daily Graphic

The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is to ban aircraft that are above 20 years from using the country’s airspace.

The measure is meant to, among other things, ensure the safety of passengers and crew, as well as their comfort while en route to and from Ghana.

Consequently, the GCAA will soon issue a new directive to stop airlines from importing or flying commercial aircraft that are 20 years and above in the country.

When the directive is issued, Ghana will join a growing list of countries, such as Nigeria, Uganda, Thailand, Bolivia, Malaysia, Mongolia and Turkey, that have imposed age ceilings for commercial aircraft.

Discussions

The Director-General of the GCAA, Charles Kraikue, who made this known in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra last Friday, said the authority was currently in discussions with relevant stakeholders on the new directive that sought to impose an aircraft age restrictions regime.

“Following persistent complaints from passengers, we will soon bring out a new directive that will stop airlines from using overage aircraft in the country’s airspace.

“Under the new regime, the proposed ceiling for commercial aircraft to be deployed to Accra is 20 years. This is part of a bundle of measures designed to ensure that aircraft on the Accra route are fit for purpose,” he said.

No impact

Mr Kraikue observed that although age limit had little, sometimes no direct, impact on the airworthiness of an aircraft, recent persistent complaints had made it necessary for the authority to impose age restrictions on commercial carriers to ensure that passengers got the best when flying to and from Ghana.

“If the proper maintenance procedures are followed, chronological age is not a limitation, but the directive has become necessary due to recent periodic complaints and dissatisfaction from passengers,” he said

The Civil Aviation Act (Act 678) which established the GCAA empowers its director-general with the authority to issue directives in line with airspace safety management when necessary.

Banned Delta aircraft

On recent developments regarding a Delta Airline aircraft N-195DN, Mr Kraikue said the authority had directed the airline operator not to deploy the Boeing B767-332 for flights to Accra.

He said the decision followed the GCAA’s investigations into circumstances surrounding events of August 1, this year, when the aircraft was forced to return to gate due to a technical problem.

He said the investigations established, among other things, that the crew on board the N-195DN reported a fuel imbalance issue with the left main tank.

A fuel imbalance occurs when the quantity of fuel in the left and the right fuel tanks in the wings of an aircraft is unequal and could affect the plane's handling.

“The inbound crew experienced this same issue on the flight leg to Accra on July 31, 2022. This was the same aircraft that had to return to JFK on July 25, 2022, a few hours after takeoff from JFK and which was widely reported in various media outlets,” the GCAA head stated.

He said it was expected that after the negative reportage, the airline operator would thoroughly investigate the issue to arrive at the root cause of the failure before deploying the aircraft on flights.

Rather, he said, the aircraft was flown within the United States a number of times and then dispatched again to Accra, only for the problem to recur.

“The authority found this unacceptable. Therefore, with immediate effect, Delta Airlines is being advised not to dispatch the B767-332 for flights to Accra,” Mr Kraikue said.

Delta response

Delta Airline, in a letter to the GCAA, dated August 23, 2022, said it had already taken action to comply with the directive by removing aircraft N-195DN from all flights to Accra.

It said Delta currently operated 66 Boeing 767 aircraft across its global route network in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America.

“The Boeing 767 performs at the highest level of safety standards and compliance. Additionally, Delta continually invests in refreshing the 767 fleet. For example, Delta has added and is adding Delta Premium Select cabins to both the 767-400ER and 767-300ER,” the letter said.

Furthermore, Delta explained that its highest priority was the safety of its passengers and employees.

The airline said Ghana was and had been an important market to Delta since it first entered the market in 2006.

“Delta is committed to providing the highest levels of safety and industry-leading service for not just our Ghanaian customers but also all our customers,” it said.