The Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) South Africa held its 19th Annual General Meeting (AGM) at The Townhouse Hotel, Cape Town.

The Annual Report, which was tabled in the presence of the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Dikobe Ben Martins, is the second such integrated report to be issued by ATNS, in compliance with the recommendations of the third King Commission (King III). This provides the company with the first opportunity to reflect on whether the organisational aims articulated last year have been wholly or partially achieved.

The past year continued to be a good one for the company in financial terms. ATNS did not spend, with capital expenditure projected due to the company’s reprioritisation of projects during the year. A major systems upgrade will take place around 2013/2014 and expenditure will be in the region of R500 million for South African Advanced Air Traffic System (SAAATS).

During the period under review, targets that were set were achieved. The company is 10% up on turnover (from R1 054 billion to R1 160 billion). We further realised 6% saving in operating costs and increased net profit after tax. ATNS budgeted R82 million and achieved R209 million net profit after tax. In terms of current ratio, our target was 1.60:1 and we achieved 2.78:1.

One of the factors for this was the strengthening of the rand, which helped the company with costs on expenditures that were dollar-based. Other factors included new people coming into the company, which cut down on consultants, which made a contribution.

The debt equity ratio came down to 17% from 26% in the prior year. This is due to less borrowing as a result of reprioritising the SAAATS Upgrade Project (see below paragraph). ATNS’s debt is only 17%, with a 60% ceiling with financial institutions. The company believes that it can push its debt as high as 40% or 45% and still feel comfortable. ATNS is always conscious of the fact that around 70% of its costs are fixed. Because of the uncertainty factor, the company needs to build in some flexibility.

During the coming year ATNS will be introducing the new SAAATS, which, at R500 million is the company’s largest investment to date and the first upgrade since the installation of the present system in 2002. In November 2012, like the rest of the aviation world, ATNS will be implementing Flight Plan 2012, a protocol which is essentially the optimisation of systems into e-flight plans. ATNS is also in the final phase of preparation for the implementation of the Centralised Aeronautical Database, which will provide a single repository for information and data, allowing for more dynamic data exchange and greater versatility in in-flight decision-making. This is particularly important from a cost-containment point of view.

Training continues to be one of the most important aspects of this company’s work, and in this respect it was particularly easing when, in October 2011, ATNS unveiled its new 3D simulator, which was developed in partnership with Airways New Zealand. This was a replacement for, and a substantial improvement on the previous simulator, which failed in 2009. With this new device ATNS is able to recreate any airport terrain in the world and simulate virtually any flight conditions or operational difficulties, to prepare candidates for the real thing.

Cost efficiency remains one of the company’s top two priorities. The other is climate change and the ways in which the company can help to mitigate it. ATNS’s capabilities in this respect were exhibited during the COP 17 Conference in Durban. As part of the Indian Ocean Strategic Partnership to Reduce Emissions (INSPIRE) programme, and in partnership with Emirates Airlines, the company showcased its Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) techniques on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Durban, shaving 22 minutes off the scheduled flight time, saving 400 kilograms of noxious emissions and over a ton of fuel. Another demonstration of these techniques is planned with Delta Airlines in the near future.

ATNS is in robust condition; on top of its air traffic control obligations, alert to changing technologies, focused on cost-containment, poised for expansion across the continent, and ready to confront future challenges, wherever they may arise.