THE AIR FORCE GROUND FORCE
Francois has been at Africon Namibia for eight years. This charismatic engineer is a born and bred Namibian who grew up in Swakopmund. He studied his Civil Engineering diploma at Technikon Pretoria and proceeded to complete his BTech through UNISA.
Francois has high praise for Africon and says that the company looks after their staff. He received a bursary from the organisation and completed his in-service training there. Since then, Francois has grown from strength to strength as a Design Technologist.
The last eight years have been extremely eventful. Of the many projects that stand out in Francois mind, it was the Angolan Road's and the Waterkloof Air Force Base projects that have captured his imagination the most. "The Waterkloof project was really interesting. We were tasked with the geometric design to improve the alignments for both the main and secondary runways, the re-alignment of two of the main taxiways, a new hardstand area as well as a series of connecting taxiways."
"The size of the Air Force made the project a lot more challenging than if it were a normal design. We had to take the classifications of the air force base into account during the upgrade. One of the problems encountered, was dolomite. This resulted in the team having to investigate various options in order to accommodate the stormwater," explains Francois.
The project was done in a joint venture with Ninham Shand Consulting Engineers. "The purpose of the venture was to upgrade the Air Force base to a code 4E. This was however not an easy task as the site did not conform to minimum requirements and standards. As a result, a few taxi ways had to be moved because there was not sufficient distance between the links."
The project was detailed with the help of Civil Designer. "We created a model of the entire site using the program and made additions and changes as the project unfolded. I have been using the program since the days of Stardust and have nothing but praise for the software," he says. With the joint venture, Ninham Shand handled the stormwater design while Africon did the geometrical portion.
The Angolan roads project was a project of a different kind. This 160km single carriageway low standard road ran through a coffee plantation. It was however the numerous design challenges that made the project memorable. "The road ran through particularly mountainous terrain.
Prior to the Angolan war some thirty years ago, the road was in fairly good shape. But since the war, the road has deteriorated due to heavy seasonal rains and overgrown vegetation."
Francois recalls the first time they drove down the road. "We took just over 5 hours to drive down 13kms of the road. The mountainous terrain and high and low lying points made things difficult but other challenges included the land mines. At one stage the road was so bad that our 4X4 nearly capsized on a very hilly part of the road. We subsequently labelled this portion of the road: Francois's hill," he says laughing.
The remoteness of the route also had other problems. "It was difficult to survey the route as certain points could not be reached. These points had to be derived from the centreline. Language barriers presented other problems. The local task force were Portuguese speaking and could hardly understand English. We were however fortunate enough to have a local surveyor on board who could translate for us," explains Francois.
"The Angolan roads project was requested by the Inea Roads Authority in Angola as they wanted to re-open the coffee plantation. Since the project commenced, more people have started to access the area and local inhabitants are starting to build their homes closer to the road. It will however be necessary to demine the area on either side of the road, which in itself is quite a job."
According to Francois, the Angolan Roads project provided something for everyone. It was challenging yet fun and the actual terrain made the design less straightforward. Each trip to the site was also completely memorable. "Being a Civil Engineer is hard work, but there are golden moments that stand out in your mind. It is these moments that make the profession stand head and shoulders above the rest," he says firmly.
is a Design Technologist at Africon Consulting in Namibia.