IATA: African Airspace Still a Danger Zone

  • Canvasses zero fatal accidents involving jets

Chinedu Eze

Despite improvement in the safety of air transport in Africa, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) yesterday ranked the continent low compared to other regions of the world, thereby stoking global concern in aviation industry.

The IATA, trade association for the world’s airlines, noted that the airlines on the continent had zero jet hull losses and zero fatal accidents involving jets for a third consecutive year in 2018.”

IATA’s Regional Vice President, Africa and Middle East, Mohammed Albakri saturday expressed the concern at the opening of the 2019 annual general meeting in Seoul, South Korea.

At the meeting, Albakri lamented that Africa suffered the loss of ET302 (Ethiopia Airlines Boeing B737 MAX 8 crash on March 10) in 2019, urging African states to prioritise air safety by meeting the International Civil Aviation Organsiation (ICAO) safety standards.

He, however, disclosed that Africa was the only region “to see a decline in the 2018 all accident rate compared to 2017. The region experienced two fatal turboprop accidents, neither of which involved a scheduled passenger flight.

“More African (Sub Sahara) states need to meet the ICAO safety standards and recommended practices threshold of 60 per cent; currently, only 26 states have effective implementation of 60 per cent or greater,” Albakri said.

In order to help Africa attain high standard of safety, Albakri said that it continues “to avail its best safety practice tools like IATA Operational Safety audit (IOSA) and IATA Standard Safety Assessment Program (ISSA) and to enhance and complement the state safety oversight role.

He said that not only that aviation plays pivotal role in the economy of the Africa, it also contributed to the GDP of many African nations.

He disclosed that aviation “supports 6.2 million jobs in the region and generates $55.8 billion in GDP. While African regional growth is accelerating, the global growth is slowing and this creates additional opportunities for the region.”

Albakri said economically, Africa suffered from the fall of oil prices in 2017, noting that while airlines should have benefited from lower oil prices, they suffered as the region’s oil producing nations, tried to recoup lost revenue through additional taxes and charges.

He warned that dearth of skilled manpower in the aviation industry in the region would further erode its growth in the near future; unless there is a purposeful plan to develop manpower for the sector by African nations.

“One issue looms large above all. We need people with the right skills and experienceacross all aspects of the business—to manage the business, to fly and maintain aircraft, to operate the airport systems, and to provide air navigation services.

“According to Airbus, in the next 20 years the world’s global fleet will double to 48,000 aircraft. That means more than 500,000 pilots are needed globally, as well as an even greater number of technicians and engineers to maintain these aircraft,” Albakri said.

He added that Africa has a unique opportunity to harness the power of innovation to overcome a number of fundamental challenges that must be addressed so aviation’s full potential can be realized.

“But we must also recognize the diversity of today’s challenges in our region,” Albakri also said.