Kampala, (UG): Cabinet has approved US $266million (Approximately 984.2billion Uganda Shillings) to revamp the now dormant Uganda Air Cargo Corporation (UACC) Limited, another of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) enterprises.
The company that specializes in cargo freight has been unable to do business for almost four years now owing to lack of operational capital and grounding of most of its aircraft, some of which are no longer airworthy and have been condemned according to international aviation standards.
Management now says, if the US $266million funding is released, they will be in position to revamp equipment and lease more to take a share of the abundant opportunities they have missed out over the years.
The wretched situation of the company, a subsidiary of the National Enterprise Corporation (holding company of the UPDF) was disclosed to Members of Parliamentary Committee on Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs during their oversight visit to the company premises over the weekend.
General Manager Gen Nakibus Lakara (former UPDF Chief of Staff) disclosed that the decision to extend the required funding to the company was taken by Cabinet in May vide Directive 185 (CT2023). According to the directive, the money is supposed to be disbursed over a period of four years in installments of US $ 103 million, US $110 million, US $23million and US $3million, starting the coming financial year.
The money is to be used to undertake “avionics upgrades, remodification and recalibration of the grounded Hercules C-100-30 aircraft (grounded in Sudan), leasing of an Airbus 320 for (troop movements), leasing of an Airbus 330-200F or an equivalent 60-ton cargo aircraft for longer range cargo freight operations to the Middle East, Asia and Europe and procurement of spares, components and other consumables.”
Board chairman Capt Gad Gasatura and Lakara told the MPs that UACC had lost key clients including the United Nations and in particular World Food Programme, among others. It is noteworthy that Eastern and Central Africa has been having various situations of conflict and human displacement in which the UN has been widely involved with humanitarian and peace keeping missions, which offer wide business opportunities for stable and steady air operators.
UACC lost its air operator certificate in 2014 when its long flight crafts were found not to be airworthy and management says this was part of the cause of the crisis. Other challenges pointed out included the risk of litigation owing to indebtedness. The company was said to be indebted to the tune of shillings 6.686billion due to delayed payment of statutory fees and failure to clear some of the suppliers.
After a few questions, committee chairman Wilson Kajwengye (Nyabushozi) and members who included Bashir Lubega (Mubende Municipality), Godrfrey Wakooli (Butiiru county), Museveni William (Buwekula), Okeyoh Peter (Bukooli Islands), Kahonda Donozio (Ruhinda), Francis Katabazi (Kalungu East) and Joel Sseikaali (Ntwetwe) expressed sympathy with the managers and promised support at the budget appropriation to ensure the company gets back to its feet.
According Lakara, the company would be in position to operate commercially with the leased planes, given the abundant opportunities available. Currently the company only does small business with small aircrafts within Uganda and immediate neghbourhoods, limiting its revenue capacity.
Senior managers of the company explained that the time spent without operation has been costly to the company in many ways, including human resource flight, loss of lucrative existing business and opportunities available.
For instance, pilots operate using certificates valid for a given number of years and time spent without flying means the costly certificate is not serving its purpose. The alternative for affected professionals is for pilots moving their services to companies that have crafts to fly or UACC paying them for no work done. UACC has also lost three senior aircraft technicians.
A report on the status of the crafts indicated that the “silver jewel” of the company, the Hercules C-130 registration No 5F-UCF Serial No 4610 got grounded in Sudan after ingesting a bird in one of its engines, causing extensive damage. The aircraft is the oldest on the company fleet, having been procured by the late President Idi Amin. It still has over 3,000 flight hours once revamped, something Lakara said was a good resource.
Another Hercules C-100-30 Serial Number 4283 is grounded, de-registered and awaits disposal.
A Harbin Y-121V (Chinese made), unregistered with serial Number 026 was adjudged unserviceable, deregistered and awaiting disposal.
It was explained the cost of repair was not worth considering the “four years left on its airframe.”
Another Y-121V (Chinese made), unregistered with serial Number 027 was adjudged grounded, deregistered and awaiting disposal. A plane is deregistered, according to International Civil Aviation Organisation rules if it is found un-airworthy and un-serviceable.
A 5X-CF is in Jordan at the Jordan Aeronautical Systems Company (JAC) one of the few companies worldwide with capacity to do major service. A “B-Check” has already been done on it and is to be upgraded.
The upgrade according to UACC mangers will include fitting of traffic collision avoidance system 7-1, an 8>33MHz radio, a cockpit voice recorder, flight data recorder, automatic dependent surveillance broadcast, airdrop system, onboard auxiliary power unit (APU), military and Thuraya satellite communication system and cockpit night vision compatibility among other.
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