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Mission possible: taking aid to a new level...

Posted 25 March 2019 · Add Comment

There’s a new era in air support opening up to the humanitarian community in Africa. David Oliver reports.

The United Nations (UN) spends close to $8 billon and the European Union (EU) another $1.6bn every year on peacekeeping around the world, with the bulk going to missions in Africa.
One of the largest costs of these operations is the leasing of transport aircraft to provide airlift of supplies in emergency operations and the support of peacekeeping missions. Between them, their air operations cover more than 250 destinations in Africa alone.
Analysing the usage of aircraft types and air operators deployed enables the organisations to quantify and optimise air operations effectively. This includes measuring various performance indicators for individual routes, aircraft, and operations as a whole.
The majority of aircraft used by organisations on humanitarian support missions are reliable twin-turboprop civil commuter airliners, while, for heavy lift of cargo, including food and medical supplies, the Russian Il-76 is the aircraft of choice.
Designed originally as a military freighter, the four-jet Il-76 can carry up to 40 tonnes of cargo.
Now, however, for the first time, the Airbus C-295 military transport aircraft is about to be operated by a commercial company that is a leading provider of humanitarian support operations in Africa – based at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Kenya.
Wilson has served commercial charter companies, flying schools and private pilots for more than 70 years, and is the second busiest airfield in Africa in terms of aircraft movements.
Although domestic flights constitute most of the total traffic from the airport, it is the main base for several air ambulance and humanitarian aid operators, the largest of which is DAC Aviation, which was founded by Emmanuel Anassis, who identified an opportunity in the African humanitarian air transportation market.
Anassis had begun his commercial aviation career in 1984 and had a broad range of experience, from scheduled airline operations to critical airlift missions in war-torn countries.
Working as a humanitarian pilot in east Africa, he noticed that international humanitarian aid organisations were lacking access to a stable, reliable and safe air service provider.
In response to this market need, DAC began operations in 1993 with a single DHC-5 Buffalo aircraft and a contract with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). By 2004, the fleet had grown to seven aircraft, by which time the company had acquired the first of many Dash 8 aircraft.
The 37-seat Series 102 and 200 aircraft have a 3,400kg payload, while the 54-passenger Dash 8 Series 315 can carry an increased payload of 5,135kg.
The Dash 8-315 models operated by DAC are equipped with a gravel kit supplement, which permits them to land and take off on gravel runways, as well as rough terrain. The aircraft are also equipped with an auxiliary power unit (APU), allowing for air conditioning systems to operate while on the ground.
In August 2006, DAC acquired CMC Aviation, rebranded as DAC Aviation (EA) Limited, a long-standing MRO facility located at Wilson Airport. The objective was to expand the organisation’s fixed-base operations (FBO) there.
DAC Aviation has contracted to operate the European Commission Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO) Flight, which is an essential humanitarian partner supporting the majority of aid agencies operating in and around the Great Lakes and African Horn regions.
This EU-funded operation permits the transportation of personnel and supplies to remote areas, which, without the service, would have few links outside of Africa.
Supporting more than 80 scheduled flights a week, the ECHO Flight programme continues to grow in its capacity and ability to help an increasing number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) access the necessary transportation required to fulfil their mission objectives.
With an estimated operating cost of more than $18.6 million in 2017, ECHO flight transported 26,100 passengers and some 195 tonnes of cargo.
It also contributed more than $22 million to the World Food Programme’s dedicated United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), the world’s largest humanitarian airline, which operates in Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Yemen, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.
UNHAS carried an average of 25,042 passengers, 218 tonnes of cargo and undertook 93 evacuation flights per month in 2017.
DAC Aviation aircraft contracted to UNHAS, which supports more than 100 NGOs, with seven aircraft.
Within Kenya, UNHAS provides air transport services to 34 NGOs engaged in humanitarian operations at the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
On DAC Aviation’s 20th anniversary of operating humanitarian aid, a second CRJ 200 LR was added to the fleet, together with six new Cessna Grand Caravan EXs, and the first of three 78-seat Dash 8 Q400s with a payload of 8,670kg – all operating in support of humanitarian aid and relief programmes.
In June 2017, Canadian aviation financier and lesser, Stellwagen, signed a firm order for 12 Airbus C-295W medium transport aircraft with 12 options to open up new markets for the military aircraft. The agreement positioned Stellwagen to address civil markets, including the humanitarian sector, freight operators in austere environments, and government agencies such as search-and-rescue services.
Stellwagen CEO, Douglas Brennan, said: “The C-295 is a remarkably capable and versatile aircraft. We have intensively studied the potential for its use in all civilian and humanitarian operations and we look forward to working with Airbus and operators throughout the world.”
At the end of 2017, the Stellwagen Group signed an agreement to lease four Airbus C-295 aircraft to DAC Aviation International, which planned to begin humanitarian operations with two aircraft in the first quarter of 2018 operating in Africa.
Emmanuel Anassis, chairman of DAC Aviation, said: “We greatly appreciate this opportunity and partnership with our friends from Stellwagen. Introducing the Airbus C-295 and its tremendous capabilities into our operations will significantly enhance our mission, allowing us to take our 25 years of humanitarian assistance to the next level as we continue to deliver hope to those less fortunate.
“This partnership allows the humanitarian missions to safely operate the new, multiple-use aircraft in austere African environments and immediately provides a new standard of relief services to people in peril.”
Built at Airbus Defence & Space’s facility at Seville in Spain, the twin-turboprop C-295 is a nine-tonne capacity, ramp-equipped, medium transport aircraft capable of carrying 80 passengers over a range of 1,500km.
It is fully certified and routinely operates day and night in combat missions in all weather extremes, from desert to maritime environments, from extreme hot to extreme cold temperatures.
The C-295 is ideal for any kind of humanitarian mission, with outstanding low-level flight and short take-off and landing characteristics from unprepared rough, soft and short airstrips. It also has a flying endurance of up to 11 hours. In-service with 28 operators in 25 countries, more than 200 of the tactical airlifter have been ordered by military customers.
DAC Aviation pilots, including Anassis, have undergone flight training at the Airbus Defence & Space International Training Centre in Seville, both on its CAE C-295 full-flight simulator (FFS) and on the aircraft itself.
The in-service date slipped to September due to lengthy civil certification process of the hitherto military aircraft. Having gained European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification, the aircraft has had to be certified by the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority before DAC could operate it from Wilson Airport.

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