Afghan officials announced last week that construction will soon start on a “major” aircraft maintenance workshop at Kandahar International Airport as more airlines plan to fly routes through the city and establish nearby operations.
The development comes as more activity picks up surrounding Afghanistan’s aviation sector, and in particular, its local airlines, SkyLink Aviation CEO Dave Dacquino told ExecutiveGov. “When people think about Afghanistan, they often think about a long war, and wonder if things have really changed over there,” Dacquino said.
“The Afghan government is showing that they are truly interested in investing in their national infrastructure.”
The plan was announced at a meeting attended by representatives of government and international industry, with the Governor of Kandahar Province Toryalai Weesa joining Dacquino and Syed Salman Sadad, president of Afghan Jet International Airlines (AJI).
AJI began flying to the province a year ago and will soon open a branch in Kandahar City. The aviation authority also noted that flydubai Airlines and a Turkish company have both agreed to begin flying routes to Kandahar between Dubai and Istanbul, respectively.
SkyLink and AJI recently announced they have launched a partnership that aims to increase support for the Afghan military by bringing updated helicopter testing and calibration capabilities to all major airports in Afghanistan.
“The primary foundation of infrastructure really is aviation, and moves such as these will help grow the infrastructure and country, adding additional routes in place of current military operations,” Dacquino added.
SkyLink said that while the service is currently available in Kandahar, the facility the pair will soon establish in Kabul would be the only avionics testing and calibration facility approved by the Afghan Ministry of Transportation and Civil Aviation.
The companies plan to extend these capabilities to support all MIL variants, including Mi-17s, with the goal of bringing those capabilities to each of Afghan’s major airports to support both military and civilian aircraft.
“We are excited to work with SkyLink and utilize their existing infrastructure and extensive knowledge and expertise of MIL aircraft, in particular in Afghanistan,” Salman said.
AJI was created by Dubai-based Global Jet and an Afghan parent company and will soon start flying routes with two 50-seat planes between Kabul and Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif. Its headquarters are located in Kabul and it operates additional regional offices in Dubai and Sharjah.
After introducing a 74-seat airplane for routes to other domestic airports, including ones without paved runways, AJI plans to expand internationally and pick up twin-jet airplanes to fly routes to Europe and South and Central Asia.
“AJI is the first Afghan airline to really be focused on first building out their domestic network, and then looking to bring more international routes,” Prakash Noronha, SkyLink’s senior vice president of operations, noted. “That makes it a critical component of the country’s development.”
In order to realize those ambitions, AJI will subject itself to an international safety audit program run by the International Air Transport Association, and undergo an audit from the European Aviation Safety Agency, which is required for European operations. That’s in addition to needing to comply with the requirements and regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
AJI said it will further demonstrate its commitment to securely delivering services by undergoing assessment according to the Safety Management Systems standards, and support the professional development of its cabin and cockpit crew by implementing a flight data monitoring system through the Accident Prevention and Flight Safety program.
SkyLink is launching a safety compliance and audit business based in the UAE, and Dacquino noted the importance of having security in place as the aviation sector matures.
“We deal in the most remote conditions in the world, and we have to have world-class capabilities to ensure the safety of our aircraft,” Dacquino noted.
Ultimately, Dacquino said stellar records and performance will be critical to maintaining the growth that the country sees so much value in.
“The government sees the jobs and sees the local development that comes with building out their airports and the aviation sector, and they know that this international cooperation is a great way to drive that,” Dacquino said.