Air Transport World

Africa's safety travails: improving the continent's dismal aviation safety performance is getting much-needed attention.(Safety)

NO MATTER HOW you look at aviation safety data for Africa, the picture is not pretty. Last year the continent's airlines had the world's highest hull loss rate for Western-built jets at 9.94 per 1 million sectors and the highest total accident rate for all aircraft at 12.24 per 1 million sectors, according to IATA. These are 12 times and five times the world average respectively. The association also reported that African and Middle Eastern carriers accounted for just 8% of global air traffic in 2009 but 32% of aircraft accidents.


A total of 110 African airlines from 13 countries are on the list of carriers banned from flying to the EU. The list has been criticized by the African Airlines Assn. as unfair and unrepresentative because many of the banned airlines have never served Europe and some are not operating. Nonetheless, the sheer weight of the numbers is compelling.

IATA DG and CEO Giovanni Bisignani laments the situation: "An enormous amount of effort has been put into improving safety in Africa. There are 20 sub-Saharan carriers on the IOSA registry. We have been working to ensure that carriers have access to safety data that provides the analysis and information needed to target further areas for improvement."

The problem was put into perspective at an EU-Africa aviation conference in Windhoek, Namibia, last year, with European Commission Air Transport Directorate Air Safety Administrator-Air Safety Coordinator Philippe Gaillard saying that lack of safety across the continent is a major obstacle to the development of air travel and economic development, creating a vicious circle.

The safety problems include the age of Africa's fleet of passenger aircraft (20 years old on average versus the global average of 10 years) with air navigation and airspace management also "suffering from serious weaknesses, such as old and obsolete equipment," he said. These critical issues translate into African airlines carrying just 30% of the international traffic to and from the continent, with a large proportion uplifted by just one airline: South African Airways. …

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