To ensure the smooth and Continuous running of air navigation facilities in Africa, Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel, ATSEPs in the continent have called on their colleagues to embrace and expand their Information Technology, IT knowledge to remain relevant in the system.
They say the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way things were done in the past and has brought in what is now called the new normal, which includes physical distancing, wearing of face masks, hand sanitizing among others.
Speaking during a webinar organized by Mr. Frank Ogochukwu, with the theme: The Challenges and Opportunities for ATSEP’s, “During and post COVID-19” the immediate past President, Ugandan ATSEP Association, Mr. Andrew Mwesige, stressed that with the health protocols aimed at preventing the spread of the pandemic, newer technology would be deployed to do the job and fewer personnel would be needed in this regard.
He noted that ATSEPs should not entertain any fear of job loss but to braze up to the new challenges that may come up as a result of this pandemic.
“We must be flexible willing to learn new skills leave the legacy technology and move to new technology.”
The Ugandan ATSEPs professional said because revenues are plummeting, maintenance of equipment and acquisition would be affected, adding that African countries would need to find a way to ensure that safety is not compromise.
“Our revenue have greatly been affected and you may find out that we may not be able to procure infrastructure as we use to do before and the ATSEPs find out that you cannot reduce your infrastructure, if you have radars you cannot say because of covid I will switch off three you have to keep the infrastructure running, the ground systems have to run, so the operational cost is constant and the revenue is down AMD so because we cannot compromise on the safety of the ATSEPs.”
Mr. Mwesige said Africa must think of new models of financing its infrastructure in embracing new technology like leasing that give them breathing space as they cannot afford to spend money the way they use to ore-COVID-19.
“So I think we may have to start thinking about new models of financing, infrastructure financing, may leasing. You go to a manufacturer and maybe they give you the radar with a 10 year repayment plan because previously I think most of them buy in cash, you buy it and it is yours maybe we may want now to think about new ways of financing infrastructure, embracing some of this new technology but it may give us some breathing space because we can’t afford now to spend like we use to spend before pre-COVID.”
President, South Africa ATSEP Association, Mr. Sam Mahlangu stated that with the current situation, they might be forced to keep the system running beyond its lifespan.
“The system that is supposed to give us service for 10 years we might have to run that for 5 years and the ATSEPs need to be innovate on how to keep that system alive and ensure safety of the flying public. All this resources we are talking about infrastructure they come with a huge cost.”
On how ATSEPs have been coping in discharging their duties and ensuring the safety of ATSEPs officers during this COVID, Mahlangu explained that they have introduced more remote work activities and respond to them remotely in compliance with physical distancing.
He stressed that their emphasis was more of ensuring that their system remained safe and operating.
“We keep sky open and fundamentally the safety of our members and we don’t expose them to any challenges that may have the dare consequences.”
Mr. Ishaya Dung, National President, Association of Air Traffic Engineers, Nigeria, said maintaining social distancing was difficult for them because quite a number of ATSEPs have to occupy the same vehicle at the same time trying to meet up their obligations in terms of maintenance either preventive or repairs.
“As we handle the safety of lives in the air at all times safety off course cannot be compromised at any point in time. We also share equipment like using operational vehicles that are sometimes not enough within our operational domain.”
Dung said they are appraising the current situation as it affects their job and make adjustments were necessary so they can carryout their duties efficiently.
“From what we have on ground now, we are becoming more and more conscious of how safe our operations should be by observing what presumably the only solution against the COVID-19 at this point in time which is the basic hygiene that we have to practice, social distancing and the rest of that, it is already reflecting in our work as ATSEPs because we have to , we have to also work on the same equipment day in, day out in order to provide the services that are expected of us. So we have to keep appraising the situation, we have to keep also making adjustments where necessary so that our lives can be safe, so that our operations can be efficient and also safe because aviation is all about safety.”
“Going forward as ATSEPs we have to just keep brainstorming and thinking of the best way we can protector ATSEPs from any infection that will actually cause their life,” Dung added.