FILE – A passenger airplane sits at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 3, 2016. The country’s aviation authorities have banned multiple types of Antonov planes, effective March 15, 2019.
The Somali government is banning four types of Antonov airplanes from flying in Somali airspace, citing safety reasons.
The Somali Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) says the AN-24, AN-26, AN-32 and AN-12 models will not be allowed to operate in Somali airspace after March 15.
Officials say there have been no accidents involving the Soviet-era planes, but there have been “near misses.”
A letter from the SCAA originally gave airline operators until February 28 to cease flights. That deadline has been extended until March 15, according to the deputy manager of SCAA, Jama Ahmed Muse.
The letter says the Antonovs do not have approved maintenance centers in the East Africa region where they can be repaired. Instead, mechanics repair these planes in the airport. It also says these planes lack an air traffic collision avoidance system, and that their noise certification is “unacceptable.”
“We have given [operators] until March 15, until we finish our investigation,” said Muse. “If they don’t meet the standard, we told them they will not have the permission.”
A senior official with SCAA later told the Investigative Dossier, a program of VOA’s Somali Service, that the decision to revoke their permits is final.
“Everybody is aware of the situation and they will have replacement planes in place. Some operators have already replaced their aircraft,” the official said.
Muse says the order will affect a small number of planes that are charted by humanitarian organizations and the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to ferry cargo.
Muse says one of the planes, an AN-12, already left the country and returned to Ukraine, its registered country.
Somalia fully took over control of its airspace in December 2017 and transferred air traffic control from Nairobi. It had been run there by the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization since the early 1990s Somali civil war.
Officials say there are about 250 flights over Somali airspace each day, excluding arrivals and departures. The number of travelers to and from Somalia has increased in recent years. Mogadishu airport alone saw a half million travelers in 2017.