An overtime dispute resulting from an unnamed air controller falling ill led to Namibian airspace being left unmonitored on Tuesday night.
Namibian newspaper Republikein reported that the officer who was supposed to handle the ATC tower from 7pm on Tuesday evening until 7am Wednesday morning at Eros Airport fell ill. However, no other official replaced him saying they were not being paid overtime.
A notice to air men (NOTAM) was immediately sent informing other aircraft using the airspace about the situation. The NOTAM was lifted at 04.37 the following day after an air controller reported for duty.
In light of the incident, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) downgraded the Namibian airspace from Class A to G, reported All Africa.
Traveller 24 quoted sources saying that as many as 50 flights crossed Namibian airspace on Tuesday evening, including two cargo planes from Johannesburg that were supposed to land at Eros airport early on Wednesday morning.
During the time the airspace was left unmanned, pilots had to rely on their instrument flight and visual flight rules.
According to reports, officials have blamed deputy director of aviation at the Directorate of Civil Aviation Tobias Günzel for their 12h strike as he had apparently refused to sign a claim for overtime pay on Monday.
While Günzel confirmed the downgrade, he said it was within ICAO standards. All Africa quoted him as saying that although Hosea Kutako International Airport was manned, Namibia’s radar was not staffed.
"By downgrading the airspace the aviation community was just informed about the type of service they would receive in Namibia," said Günzel.
"Class G is a recognised ICAO standard, pilots are aware of the services and can operate safely."