African Adventure

South African air navigation service provider ATNS announced earlier this year that it was teaming up with Italian counterpart ENAV to explore developing joint commercial activities in foreign markets.
ATNS chief executive Patrick Dlamini and Massimo Garbini, his opposite number at ENAV, inked a Memorandum of Understanding which established a formal framework of co-operation.
Air Traffic Management invited Dlamini and Garbini to discuss what exactly is being proposed.
Thank you, gentlemen, for agreeing to speak to Air Traffic Management. Firstly, could you explain what exactly are the two ANSPs agreeing to in terms of a ‘formal framework of co-operation’ and how that decision to collaborate came about?
Dlamini: ATNS and ENAV will jointly collaborate in the exploration of mutually beneficial commercial relationship in the provision of services such as flight inspection, infrastructure and procedure validation, among others. This relationship came about at a time when ATNS is embarking on an unprecedented and ambitious mission to improve and strengthen its capabilities in air traffic services, through strategic partnership – such as this one – with other active players within the aviation industry.
Garbini: The decision to cooperate came from the desire to join forces to conquer new markets, offering high level services and solutions to potential customers. On the one hand, ENAV will apply its experience developed in Europe and in many other countries around the world; while on the other, ATNS will provide knowledge and its position in the African market, today one of the most promising in the world.
ENAV said at the time that the agreement was important in terms of the commercial range offered by ENAV Services, vis-a-vis ENAV’s position in external markets. Could you explain a little more about how that range of services in design and aeronautical consulting, training, flight inspection and technology development will be applied here?
Garbini: ENAV has great experience and a maturity of trading experience acquired in international markets. ENAV provides the excellence of its training centre – its Academy – and flight inspection services throughout a world class fleet of modern aircraft. We offer consultancy in all aspects of aviation and in this context we are, at the moment, one of the few players in the world able to manage global projects capable of modernising an entire country. ENAV doesn’t only provide services but also develops products both software and hardware within the ATM domain to fulfill all customer needs.
At the time of the announcement ATNS said the collaboration with ENAV would help deepen its skills, know-how and extend its services to the rest of the African continent and elsewhere.
Dlamini: Of course. Recently we had an AFRICA 2012 Aviation Safety Summit in Sandton, Johannesburg. Air accident investigations in the last five years showed that the main contributory factors included weak regulatory oversight, improper certification of air operators, pilot qualification and training, and non-adherence to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
As a result, the two most prevalent air incidents and/or accidents are runway excursions and loss of control. ATNS is a leading exponent of safer skies. This is evident in our mission statement, which is to provide safe, expeditious and efficient Air Traffic Management (ATM) solutions and associated services. One of ATNS’s strategic imperatives is to deliver continuous improvement of safety performance. Through our award-winning Aviation Training Academy, we have continuously trained and re-trained delegates from countries within the continent and safety has been our primary focus.
Could you explain how ENAV will be targeting its expertise in the framework of the ATNS partnership?
Garbini: A particular strength will be the capability to offer ‘turnkey’ solutions ranging from the definition of customer requirements based on a customer’s needs. ENAV is also able to offer a wide portfolio of services so that allows it to not having to rely on external supplies that could, in some cases, mean a loss of quality.
ENAV also said that this agreement to collaborate represented a further step forward in Italian industrial cooperation, which has often been ‘a limitation for the Italian industrial offer’. What did you mean by that? How will that be resolved going forward?
Garbini: I meant that cooperation with other service providers or other companies including Italian ones is a way to build a better commercial offering. This agreement for us is a further step forward in industrial cooperation, not only in competition, which has often been a limitation for industry in our country. It benefits all stakeholders: customers can use the best suppliers and can work and grow using the skills of each partner.
Will ATNS’s influence in the region simply be used to leverage the application of ENAV solutions. What sort of ATNS skills and know-how will be enhanced through this deal?
Dlamini: Not necessarily. The partnership means focusing on how the two entities can complement each other for the good of the aviation industry. Aviation is a very dynamic industry, technically and technologically speaking. If I may, I can safely say that an invention in any aviation field – whether it be in engineering or air traffic management – will benefit the rest. In fact, we foresee a situation where the two entities will be doing much in the field of research and development.
ATNS has just concluded an extensive study into the African continent – which had two objectives. Firstly, it aimed to gain a better understanding of the continent’s aviation market and secondly, to find meaningful ways to add value. What findings did that study reveal?
Dlamini: The study has highlighted immeasurable opportunities for ATNS to work with our counterparts in the continent, in the continuing quest to improve safety in the continent. The opportunities covers the various aspects of air traffic management; communications, navigation and surveillance, in addition to training. In a nutshell, we see a situation where each and every country within the continent will play a major role in making sure that the continent’s economic growth is fast-tracked through better management of the skies.
What decisions have you taken in terms of strategic targeting of business development opportunities to provide services and products on the basis of that report?
Garbini: We are developing techniques and methods of access to the market with particular reference to the African area.
Dlamini: The report has enabled ATNS to be more targeted in their route-to-market strategy and to also develop tailored service packages that are relevant to the respective countries. This also highlighted some areas where ATNS need to beef up their capacity to deliver the required quality services
Which African countries have been identified as priorities and how will the partnership go about developing potential business?
Garbini: Certainly, for us, the most interesting African countries are those closest to South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.
Dlamini: ATNS has been playing a pivotal and constructive role throughout the continent and will continue to do so going forward. From a resources and capacity point of view, we are gearing up to focus primarily on the African continent and the surrounding islands.
Outside Africa, where may ATNS seek to extend its services?
Dlamini: ATNS’s current capacity is geared primarily to the African continent and surrounding islands. But we cannot discount the fact that, as part of the global aviation family, we are destined to be a major global player within the industry. I can safely say that Africa is an economic powerhouse which will realise its potential very soon. And that will be through efficient transportation system, whether it be rail, road, sea and air. 




Flights handled/year

@ 1.6 million

@ 0.5 million

Most flights managed/day



Control Towers (TWRs)



Area Control Centres (ACCs)



Total sqkm airspace managed


22 million

Air/ground communications/year

31 million



3,251 (2/3 operational)

1,000 (2/3 operational)

Training hours delivered

266,000 (2010)



1.5 billion (2003-2010)

total 2011/12 capex: R80m