The Vice President Aeropolitical, Government and International Relations of Brussels Airlines, has indicated that the airline will be forced to stop flying to Freetown if the government fails to address two issues with the urgency it requires.
Mr. Herman Carpentier, on Wednesday, 28 September paid a courtesy visit to the Sierra Leone Embassy in Brussels and informed senior diplomats that the lack of an efficient and reliable ferry service from Lungi to Freetown “will be critical to the airline operations”.
He said the alternative route from Lungi to Freetown via Port Loko is too cumbersome for overseas passengers to endure after long and exhaustive flight hours.
The second issue, added Mr. Carpentier, has to do with a letter from the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA), relating to the inspection of Brussels Aircraft. The letter, dated 29 April, 2016 and signed by SLCAA’s Head of Flight Safety Standard, Joseph B. K. Fombo, requested Brussels Airlines to “undergo a comprehensive surveillance review in accordance with ICAO DOC 8335 and SLCAA Part 10, and the State National Surveillance Programme”.
The letter further states that two Inspectors from SLCAA will conduct the said inspection at the operational base of Brussels Airlines in Belgium from 13-14 June, 2016. Furthermore, Brussels Airlines should provide the air tickets, accommodation and per diem for the two SLCAA Inspectors at a total cost of Le 33,120,000 (Thirty Three Million One Hundred and Twenty Thousand Leones). Mr. Carpentier said, the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) had already replied to the SLCAA’s correspondence by out-rightly rejecting to the said inspection proposal.
The BCAA letter, dated, 18 May, 2016 stated that, “the request for an inspection of one Belgian Carrier within its premises by another Civil Aviation Authority… is out of common rules and practices”. It stated further that, “a State can obtain information on the safety oversight capabilities, and the level of compliance with ICAO standards by accessing information from the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP)”.
Mr. Carpentier disclosed that because of the refusal of Brussels Airlines to honour the SLCAA inspection request, the Authority’s management has refused to approve Brussels Airlines Winter flight schedules to Freetown. He informed that Brussels Airlines is not the only airline that has objected the inspection proposal, but even Air France and other Airlines flying to Sierra Leone. “I am not here to tell the government of Sierra Leone what to do on these concerns that I have raised, because the government knows better. But if the government fails to address these issues, we have no alternative but to stop our operations, and Air France might also stop. We want to continue serving the people of Sierra Leone as we did during the difficult times of the Ebola crisis, and we hope we will reach out an amicable solution”, Mr. Carpentier concluded.
The Head of Chancery, Mrs. Florence N. Bangali thanked the Brussels Airlines Management for bringing the issue to the attention of the Embassy. She promised to convey their concerns to the relevant authorities in Freetown.