The safety of Zimbabwe’s airspace is in doubt as the southern African country’s meteorological service is incapable of supplying weather information they need. This is forcing international airlines to shun Zimbabwe.
The state-run Department of Meteorological Services’ automatic equipment at Zimbabwe’s airports is antiquated and cannot issue the mandatory and crucial minute-by-minute information to aircraft.
The meteorological office acting-director Morris Sahanga said the airlines are by-passing “our airspace because we cannot provide that information”.
Zimbabwe lies directly on the major route of airlines travelling between Europe and South Africa, but aircraft now fly over countries to the west of Zimbabwe or over the Mozambique channel to the east, he said.
Sahanga said his office needed a whopping $2m to upgrade its obsolete
equipment, but received only $300 000 from President Robert Mugabe’s
effectively bankrupt government.
“The expertise is there, but we lack the equipment. We would have wanted to install the new equipment before 2010 and trial-run it.”
Zimbabwe has been hoping for a spill over of tourists flying into neighbouring South Africa for football’s World Cup finals next year. “Unless we address this anomaly we may not get any new airlines landing at our airports. How do we attract tourists?” asked Sahanga.
Zimbabwe holds major tourism attractions, including the Victoria Falls, the worlds largest waterfall, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
About 20 international airlines from around the world once flew to Harare, but now Air Zimbabwe, the state-owned national airline, is the only carrier that flies direct from the national airport in Harare to major international
In November, a Chinese-made MA60 plane was forced to make an emergency stop in Harare after hitting a warthog on the runway. The Air Zimbabwe airliner veered off the runway at Harare international airport after colliding with the animal, a commonly found wild pig with protruding tusks.
The plane had 34 passengers and Air Zimbabwe officials said the airline had an “enviable safety record”.