Parliament on Tuesday sat late to pass a Civil Aviation Bill which seeks to improve safety and security of Malawi airspace that would see the return of some international operators such as British Airways and KLM which withdrew from landing in the country due to safety concerns.
The new law also makes it mandatory for the government to appoint a Civil Aviation Authority, an independent civil aviation body which will regulate the civil aviation industry.
Minister of Transport and Public Works, Jappie Mhango, tabled the bill and it received overwhelming support from both the government side and the opposition benches who described it as overdue.
“We want to have safe and secure airspace. The British Airways and KLM withdrew from Malawi because of airspace safety concerns,” Mhango said.
He said the International Air Transport Association (IATA) struck Malawi off the list of countries that can land big aircrafts amid concerns of safety and security of its airspace.
Mhango said the country was on the verge of having all aircrafts barred from landing at Chileka Airport in Blantyre and Kamuzu International Airport, hence the need for the bill.
“If the country’s airspace were closed, we would be using our neighbouring countries’ airports like in Zambia, Tanzania or Mozambique and this would have been an inconvenience to a sovereign state,” Mhango said.
He said the new law would also improve equipment at airports and make some technical improvements to ensure the safety and security of the country’s airspace.
In addition, the new law would also legalise drones which the Ministry of Health and Unicef are using to transport blood samples for HIV and Aids testing from remote areas where vehicles cannot reach due to lack of a good road network.
On the Civil Aviation Authority, Mhango said the regulatory body would have its own chief executive officer and would be independent of government interference.
He said apart from checking the safety and security of the airspace, the authority would also be responsible for aircraft worthiness.
Opposition Malawi Congress Party and People’s Party legislators welcomed the bill but wondered why it had taken over 10 years to be brought to Parliament since it was drafted.
The civil aviation industry is the second largest revenue collector in the country after the Malawi Revenue Authority.