Africa’s high airline accident rate worries IATA

Posted: June 6, 2013 in travel & tourism

iata icaoDespite the global air transport industry achieving a record improvement in jet safety performance, the high airline accident rate in Africa is still a concern, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA said that the total accident rate for all jet airliners in Africa during 2012 was 10.85 accidents per million flight hours, compared to a world average of 2.00. The European Community (EU) has even gone as far as to ban a large number of African airlines from operating within the UE due to safety concerns over alleged poor maintenance and regulatory oversight.

Speaking at the recently held IATA 69th Annual General Meeting in Cape Town, Gunther Matschnigg, Senior Vice President, Safety, Operations & Infrastructure, explained that, “the total accident rate for Africa has improved compared to last year, but at 7.98 accidents per millions flights, they are still more than four times the global average.”

The global average airline accident rate to end April 2013 stands at 1.73. IATA member airlines, who are held to stricter safety standards, currently have a figure of 0.97.

Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said that safety is one of the issues preventing Africa from reaching its full potential. “It is also a continent with serious issues,” is how Tyler described it, with safety being the biggest challenge facing African aviation.

In light of the high African accident statistics, IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), in partnership with various African aviation organisations, established a Task Force to investigate the matter.

After analysis, the Task Force found that the main influencing factors responsible for accidents in Africa were: Lack of effective regulatory oversight; Lack of implementation of flight Data Analysis; and Lack of Safety Management System implementation.

The two predominant accident types were runway excursions and loss of control in flight.

As a result, the Africa Aviation Safety Summit was convened in Johannesburg in May 2012 and presented an African Strategic Safety Improvement Action Plan for 2012-2015.

This Action Plan subsequently became part of the Abuja Declaration on Aviation Safety in Africa, endorsed by African Ministers responsible for transport, in Abuja in July 2012. The African Union Executive council endorsed the Abuja Declaration and associated Plan of Action during the 22nd Session in Addis Ababa in January 2013.

As Matschnigg said, “it’s a piece of paper, we need to make a commitment out of it.”

The result of IATA’s activities is the African Strategic Safety Improvement Plan 2012-2015, which aims at tackling the poor safety performance in the region.

Referring to the European Union’s banning of certain airlines in many African countries, airlines plan to roll out a safety management system in accordance with the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). It is widely recognised that the IOSA, which is mandatory for all IATA member airlines, is a significant contributor to IATA members’ low hull loss rate.

“IATA’s 20 sub-Saharan members are performing in line with the global average on safety as are the 24 sub-Saharan airlines that have met the 900+ standards of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA),” Tyler said.

“But if we look at the entire African industry, safety remains a challenge with an overall accident rate many times the global average…World class safety is possible in Africa and that we support their commitment to achieving it by 2015.”

The benefits of using IOSA are numerous, with IATA members and other IOSA-registered carriers in Africa registering zero accidents in 2012 and through to 30 April 2013.

IOSA has been offered to African governments and airlines free of charge, with various workshops held with airlines, regulators and stakeholders. IATA hopes to bring 10 additional African-based airlines onto the IOSA registry by 2015.

To date, 10 carriers have been identified and six operators have received the first of three workshops they require to enable them to prepare for a successful IOSA audit outcome.

It is clear that that IATA is committed to supporting these airlines, but requires the commitment of the airline’s senior management to make changes.

“We will do our utmost to help them to pass by the end of 2015,” Matschnigg says. “What will happen if they don’t is up to the individual regulators.”

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