The recent appointment of the new General Manager of the Sierra Leone Airports Authority, SLAA, Ebenezer Macauley was locally and internationally applauded, as well deserved. He rose through the ranks. He joined the Airport as an Air Traffic Control Assistant in the then Department of Civil Aviation in 1982. Trained in Britain up to Masters level, he received the Air Traffic Controller Licenses in 1987 to become an Air Traffic Officer, later Chief of traffic services. His sterling qualities in the aviation industry and all round brilliance, gained him the enviable position of Head of Operations ten years ago, the position he held before his recent appointment as the new General Manager. He spoke to Abubakar Hashim on his mission at SLAA, why SLAA is today the number one parastatal in the country and his intention to bring in new developments at the Airports
Since your assumption of duties so far, how has the journey been in putting the Airports Authority on the right path?
The journey has been so rigorous. It has not been an easy task. But with my operational experience in the aviation industry, we are forging ahead with my dedicated team.
We thank the President for keeping us together as a team to achieve a seamless and positive record to achieve the needed desired goals at the airport.
What are your aims and objectives in making the airport the first port of destination, as air line operators and even passengers are complaining of operational charges as landing fees and taxes, which result in high costs of tickets and other costs of operations?
Our operations as new management of the Airport Authority is to manage the airport facilities in accordance with international best practices and safety standards.
We implement these best practices in full view of cost- effective strategies.
We generate internal resources to finance operations to modernize our organizational plans. We do these in partnership with the private sector to enhance customer’s satisfaction. We are passionate about passenger safety and satisfaction
We are also passionately concerned on operational costs as we are working assiduously to make the costs be relatively the same as what obtain in the sub-region.
Certain economic variables and indices will be robustly addressed to reach a compromised target of operational costs at the airport.
What is your operational relationship with other Airports Authorities in the sub-region and Africa in general?
Our relationship with African Airports is healthy. We have regional groups, the Africa Civil Aviation Commission, under the auspices of the AU that Sierra Leone is a member. At the Mano River Union MRU level, we have the FIR, that is Robert International Frequency among Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, to coordinate movement of aircrafts in the MRU region. We have healthy aviation relationship with the ECOWAS countries like Ghana, Nigeria and others in the exchange of programs and training of personnel for capacity building.
We send most of our technical personnel to South Africa for aviation training. We have excellent working relationship with regional aviation bodies in Africa.
You recently received an award as the best government parastatal in 2017. How did you make it to be the best among the rest?
Several factors were taken into consideration by the award committee like upgrade of the terminal building, low costs to passengers in using our facilities though costs of tickets are relatively high, comfort at the airport zone, increase in passenger traffic in a new modernized passenger terminal building from 2015 to date. This is still on – going, resulting in passenger satisfaction.
We have also purchased state – of – the – art, robust equipment at the airport.So also our fire service personnel are currently undergoing intensive training by a consortium from Ghana in fire service and fire rescue. We are also increasing our staff strength in all areas of operations.
We have also improved our ground landing facilities for customer satisfaction. We are also having new air navigational equipment.
We are now having a newly constructed cargo complex that is an attraction to international business conglomerate. Our cargo complex meets international standards according to International Civil Aviation Organisation ICAO best practices.
What new operational methods do you intend to introduce under your new stewardship to improve on airports services?
We are looking at our development plans for the next few years to make the airport more attractive. For instance, we are working on a new automated car parking system to modernize it like what obtains in other countries.
We are also thinking of extending our apron by the new cargo area and the apron flood lighting system. We intend to accommodate more cargo flights around the cargo area.
Another area is the close proximity of the airport to the sea. We intend to review the sea rescue plans for emergency sea rescue mission of aircrafts. We have a marine component at the fire and rescue department for this mission. We intend to upgrade the marine section to meet up with international standards according to ICAO.
We also intend to improve our power distribution system. Our engineers are currently in Belgium undergoing factory tests of equipment of 1 MW stand -by generator to replace our 350 and 360 generators. Power is the life blood of the airport. We can’t rely on the national grid as airports require 24-hour power supply. By next month, the 1 MW generator will be here for commissioning by the President or the Minister.
We are also looking at improving our air traffic control services. We want to get new air traffic control tower equipment as well as a new fire and rescue services station.
We also intend to construct an aviation house with ultra-modern facilities as it obtains in Accra, Abidjan, Dakar and Lagos. The aviation house will have training school for our personnel. We have lots more in the pipeline