Friday, September 7, 2012

Africa Must Improve Air Passenger and Freight Flight Safety Record

IATA Boss Speaks Out and Encourages Data Analysis
Shipping News Feature

AFRICA – Ahead of the 2013 IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit which will be held in Cape Town, IATA's CEO and Director General Tony Tyler spoke at the recent IATA Aviation Day to reinforce his organization’s commitment to African aviation safety issues which Tyler said is ‘the most pressing problem for African aviation today’. In 2011, the continent experienced an average of one accident for every 305,000 freight and passenger flights using Western-built jet aircraft. This was a vast improvement over 2010, when the average was one accident for every 135,000 flights but still compares poorly to the global scenario, still as they are nine times worse than the worldwide average.

To aid in improving African aviation safety, IATA and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in partnership with Boeing, Airbus and other stakeholders, convened at the AFI 2012 Aviation Safety Summit in May to develop an AFI Strategic Improvement Action Plan (AFI Plan) which is to be implemented from 2012 to 2015, in order to strengthen regulatory oversight and enhance safety performance throughout the Continent. The AFI Plan is targeted at key priorities including a regulatory oversight system including mandating the implementation of both the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), and more stringent runway safety measures, crew training on preventing loss of control, use of flight data analysis (FDA) and full use of proper Safety Management Systems (SMS). Tyler said:

"In 2011 the global industry recorded an average of one accident for every 2.7 million flights. Despite improvements, the safety record for Africa was nine times worse. That is not acceptable. It should be as safe to travel by air in Africa as it is in any other part of the world. Recent developments indicate that we are achieving the political will among governments to change the situation for the better.

“Aviation is a team effort. In May 2012, IATA, with ICAO and a host of other organizations, committed to an Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan aimed at addressing safety deficiencies and strengthening regulatory oversight in the region by 2015. The plan was further enhanced by the continent’s Directors General of Civil Aviation and endorsed as part of the ‘Abuja Declaration’ by the Ministerial meeting on Aviation Safety and Security of the African Union in July.

“The priorities are addressing the real issues [as] identified through analysis by ICAO and IATA of Africa’s safety performance between 2006 and 2010. For example, runway accident prevention measures are given such high priority because they accounted for about a quarter of the accidents over the period. If we target efforts to address them, we will see results that will make a difference.

“This has already been proven with the use of FDA, another of the priorities. In April 2008, IATA announced a program to ensure that all of its member airlines had access to Flight Data Analysis and insight gained through FDA resulted in cutting deviations from optimum flight trajectories in half for those airlines using it. FDA improves safety, that’s why we are working with governments to make it more broadly available.”

Tyler pointed out that the industry in Africa supports 6.7 million jobs and business activity totals $67.8 billion. He also stated that each year 67 million people fly on 762,000 flights that connect to Africa’s 371 commercial airports. Aviation could play an even bigger role in facilitating Africa’s growth and development. He said that if the cooperation can improve safety, create a common policy approach in line with global standards and fund infrastructure appropriately, aviation could have an even bigger positive impact on Africa’s development.

Ironically some of the worst accidents occur to freight only aircraft and hardly warrant a mention in reports following the incidents due to only crew being involved. In parts of Africa many of the smaller cargo planes are subject to lower levels of maintenance and inspection and we have seen cases, even in passenger planes when inappropriate maintenance has put flights at risk such as engines being installed using a fork lift as opposed to the precision jigs required to ensure all bolts are properly aligned and tightened and of course the scourge of cheaper pattern parts often far below the original manufacturers specifications.

Photo: A typical runway accident in June this year, the Boeing 727-200 was operated by Nigerian cargo airline Allied Air when it crashed whilst landing at Kotoka International Airport in Ghana. All four aboard survived relatively unscathed but eleven motorists and a passing cyclist died as the plane ploughed through a fence and onto the adjacent road hitting cars and a minibus.