It’s Time to Protect Eros Airport

Matt Totten Jr

The tragic loss of three Westair flight crew members in a recent and extremely rare small aircraft accident near Eros airport has led to a misguided call by some to “close Eros Airport”, one of Namibia’s most critical and economically significant assets.

No commercial passengers or bystanders were injured.

On 14 May, a harmful article titled ‘It’s Time to Close Eros Airport’ by Robin Tyson was published in The Namibian.

Without presenting supporting facts, Tyson made claims which grossly mischaracterised Eros Airport’s risk to public safety, undervalued its economic impact, and its importance as a cornerstone of Namibian infrastructure.

Because of the sensationalised nature of aviation accidents, partly fuelled by uninformed opinions, the public seems to inflate the perceived risk Eros poses to Windhoek, even though the data shows otherwise.


Over Eros Airport’s 70+ year history, there have been 10 off-airport accidents within Windhoek’s greater city limits, five of which resulted in fatalities.
Sadly, these five accidents took the lives of 15 pilots and passengers, but injured zero bystanders on the ground.

Based on this data (from the Aviation Safety Network), the City of Windhoek’s average aviation-related fatality rate is less than 0,22 deaths a year since the airport was modernised in the mid-1950s.

By comparison, based on Namibia’s National Road Safety Council data, greater Windhoek experienced 133 road-related fatalities between 2009 and 2012, and 143 road related fatalities between 2016 and 2019.

That’s 276 road related deaths (or approximately 34,5 deaths a year) – within Windhoek – over eight years.

Where are the op-eds calling for a city-wide ban on roads?

Perhaps it’s because the freedom, opportunity and economic benefits cars and trucks provide, outweigh their much greater risk to public safety.


Eros is the busiest airport in Namibia. It facilitates 1,5 to two times more air traffic than Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA).

That’s why Tyson’s assumption that “there should also be no issues” (in HKIA Eros Airport) shows a lack of aviation industry understanding.

The sheer cost of demolishing Eros’s aviation infrastructure to then rebuild it all at HKIA – which would require building new runways, taxiways, parking aprons, passenger terminals, hangars, maintenance facilities, fuel depots, security facilities, etc – would completely overshadow any cost savings.

In fact, most international airports rely on nearby General Aviation (GA) airports like Eros to handle regional airline, charter, and GA traffic that international airports don’t want.

In stark contrast to what Tyson claims, international destinations such as Nairobi, Johannesburg and London rely on multiple regional airports like Eros to keep GA and training aircraft separated from the much larger and faster jetliners that dominate international airports.

For example, Nairobi maintains both Jomo Kenyatta International and nearby Wilson Airport to keep its jumbo jets separated from smaller GA aircraft. Similarly, Johannesburg counts on OR Tambo International to handle the larger jetliners, while Wonderboom, Lanseria, Grand Central and Rand airports handle Gauteng’s GA traffic.


Eros Airport is so much more than a hub for domestic travel, pilot training and aircraft maintenance.

It facilitates the rapid medical transport of rural Namibians and foreign tourists to Windhoek hospitals by air ambulance when seconds count in saving lives.

Tack on a previously unnecessary 30 to 45 minute ambulance transfer from HKIA, and lives can be lost.

Eros Airport also provides a significant time and cost saving to Namibians travelling between Windhoek and domestic destinations such as Ondangwa, Lüderitz, Oranjemund, Rundu, Katima Mulilo and Walvis Bay.

Imagine how many Namibians would be inconvenienced if they were forced to shuttle between Windhoek and HKIA for those domestic flights.

Finally, Eros Airport drives economic growth by ensuring Namibian businesses and government officials can operate efficiently between Windhoek and the SADC region. Time is money when it comes to business.

It’s not just the presidential jet that operates out of Eros. Most of Namibia’s government air service departments such as GATS, NamPol and NamPower aII do.


Even with its unparalleled safety record, there will always be some irreducible amount of risk involved when it comes to aviation.

However, we should not lose perspective and let presumptive opinions drive our national discourse without consulting the facts.

Eros Airport’s risk to public safety is small while the benefits, jobs and critical air services it provides to our community are massive.
Knowing this, we should keep Eros Airport open for many years to come.

  • * Matt Totten Jr is an Federal Aviation Administration and Namibian licenced pilot and chief executive of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Namibia

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