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The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) is drafting Air Transport Policy Document draft which is set to adjust or even possibly lift the limits for private airline operators on the number of passengers they can transport.
The revelation was made at the sidelines of the bi-annual ECAA meeting. The document also proposes foreign investors can be involved in the sector only in the case of a limited Joint Venture.
Endeshaw Yigezu, Director of Air Transport and Planning Director at ECAA said the new air transport draft policy document has taken a year to prepare and so far first round discussion with stakeholders was held and a final round of discussions will be held this month. 
The draft document will then be presented to the Ministry of Transport which needs to approve it before it eventually being passed on to the Council of Ministers, which could approve it by October 2012.
The comprehensive policy document is the first of its kind to deal with the air transport sector, with the previous legislations being auxiliary to the investment code of Ethiopia after an investment law issued in 1993 partially allowed their existence as a way to delineate it from other sectors. 
“Previous legislations didn’t deal with the pros and cons of the air transport sector especially to the private sector, which the new draft document does,” Endeshaw told Capital. 
He also said the draft which envisages alleviating problems of private air operators as well as creating favorable conditions which is in line with the five year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) by promoting vital sectors such as tourism and the export market. 
Abera Lemi, General Manager of National Airways said he hopes the new air transport draft policy addresses the biggest bottle neck private air operators have been facing in acquiring bigger capacity planes in terms of seat..
He also said private air operators’ proposed to lift seat limitation totally but is anticipating whether it’s going to be the case or the limitation is going to be relaxed.
“Transport has taken a whole new meaning with the advent of space travel while we’re struggling with air transport which I believe is high time to change,” Abera told Capital.
“We’re not receiving help” 
While the ECAA says it intends to help the growth and strength of the private air operators through these Air transport Policy Document draft, numerous complaints from the private operators were heard at the meeting held on July 5.
One participant who said he’s involved in Aviation Maintenance mentioned that he’s having a hard time accessing regulations about civil aviation because the documents are in bulky from and are not accessible online as well as having no regulation on helicopter air travel regulation.
Col. Wesenyeleh Hunegnaw, General Director of ECAA answered saying since the Authority was reorganized as a separate entity from the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise a decade ago it has been constantly changing its laws and hasn’t been able to comprehensively present them.
He however said once the new comprehensive Air Transport Policy draft document is ratified by the council of ministers it will be uploaded on the website and will be easily accessible to interested party. 
Biniam Tilahun  from Amibara General Air Aviation Services said his organization provides aerial pesticide service for the country’s agricultural sector but instead preference is being given to those with export driven services.
“I’ve just heard that the government plans to have the number of registered private operators increase from the current 21 to 27 by the end of the GTP period, but it may wither away with only 5 or 6 practically operating companies,” Biniam said adding Kenya which is less mountainous has a more robust local private Aviation Sector.
Wesenyeleh said although it could be argued that the numbers of practically operating private air operators are barely half a dozen, in terms of capacity the sector has been getting stronger.
“Some of the 21 registered air operators underestimated the need of air travel assuming that money itself would be enough even though it needs as much skilled manpower and organizational ability,” remarked Wesenyeleh.
He added that ECAA gives requirements that are well below of the requirements set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in order to encourage the private sector.   
Capt. Solomon Gizaw of Abyssinia Flight Services bitterly complained that ECAA which should have been a lawyer for the sector has instead been ignoring and discriminating the private sector in favor of Ethiopian Airlines.
“We are not ETIHAD airways of Lufthansa airways to threaten Ethiopian’s business, so it should not feel threatened but instead embrace us,” said Solomon.
Wesenyeleh denied the allegation and said the Authority avails its services without discrimination and prejudice.