Another critical aviation infrastructure maintenance blunder by the ANC

In less than a week after the DA learnt of the collapse of our pilot-control-tower communication system and that the backup communications system has been broken for close to a year, more complaints have been reported of navigational and guidance support equipment that is not being maintained adequately.

According to reports received, the touchdown zone sensors on the aircraft runway pathways at OR Tambo in Johannesburg are broken and unrepaired since 6 December.

Touchdown zone sensors also known as RVR (Runway Visual Range) sensors are typically three sets of transmissometers located at the touch-down, mid-point and roll-out end of a runway. The transmissometer measures how much light still makes it through the atmosphere and determines how much visibility there is on the runway. These safety features are particularly valuable to aircraft in conditions of low visibility like fog, mist, precipitation, haze etc.

The touchdown zone for runway 03 has been left inoperative with no indication of when this will be fixed. While an international airport like OR Tambo should have at least one spare set of transmission meters it is unlikely that this will be fixed before the end of this year.

In the absence of such an automatic, electronic RVR report, during Low Visibility Procedures (LVOs) pilots are now going to rely on a human observer who will count the number of runway lights they can see and report this as the RVR, a manual RVR report.  Relying on a manual report poses a serious risk to aircraft operators that need to land.

The DA will add this transmissometers report to our concerns about the broken communication systems matter and demand a full technical explanation given the incident report Notice to Air Mission (NOTAM) showing the problem as “Runway Touchdown Zone Lights Unserviceable”, instead of saying the electronic visibility sensors are broken.

The DA will ensure that Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, be held accountable for the lack of maintenance and repairs to the country’s navigational and guidance support equipment at OR Tambo airport.