Africa: Despite tragedies, 2016 safest year even in aviation

Africa states aviation carriers AON IATA

Taking a cursory look at aviation safety globally, 2017 could prove to be better than last year, WOLE SHADARE writes

The statistics
Air crashes may be big news these days but preliminary statistics from the Aviation Safety Network (ASN) show that 2016 was the second safest year on record to take a flight. The Netherlands-based ASN, which compiles a global accident database, looked at crashes worldwide of civil aircraft carrying at least 14 passengers and found there were 19 fatal airliner accidents involving 325 deaths. The network’s statistics include acts such as suicide, sabotage and hijackings that can be excluded from some analyses.
Although this was up from 16 accidents in 2015, it still made 2016 the second safest year ever by number of fatal accidents as well as in terms of fatalities. By comparison, 560 people died in 2015, while the year of the lowest number of fatalities, 2013, recorded 29 accidents.

Eleven of the accidents and 288 deaths involved passenger flights but the ASN noted this translated to one fatal passenger flight per 3.2 million flights.
Air travel still the safest
his means aviation is still by far the safest way to travel and provides a context for the wide-spread media coverage of high-profile crashes such as the LaMia tragedy in Colombia involving a Brazillian football team.

“Since 1997 the average number of airliner accidents has shown a steady and persistent decline, for a great deal thanks to the continuing safety-driven efforts by international aviation organisations such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) , IATA, Flight Safety Foundation and the aviation industry.” ASN president Harro Ranter said.
The ASN’s analysis also found the five-year average trend showed accidents occurring during approach and landing fell to their lowest point in 45 years.
“Over the last five years about one in three accidents occurred during the approach or landing phase,’’ it said. “On the other hand, the cruise and descent phase accident trend show a marked increase to 45 per cent of all accidents in the past five years. This is the highest number in 50 years.”

Also a good year for Nigeria
Back home, last year was a very wonderful year for Nigeria’s aviation industry for not recording any air crash. Although accidents do happen even when the right things are done, but last year was so good for the nation in terms of aviation safety. he usual serious incidents that usually happen on aprons and other places did not occur. It was a year that Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), the agency saddled with accident investigations, had all the time to focus on investigation of previous accidents without adding more burdens to the agency.

Aside the Bristow Helicopter accident, which claimed no life, Nigeria seems to have got its safety oversight well running. Eleven persons escaped death after a Bristow 5B BJQ Helicopter en-route Lagos from an offshore location in Port Harcourt ditched inside the Lagos lagoon.

The helicopter was carrying nine passengers and two crew members on board when the incident happened. It happened 70 Nautical Miles off Lagos. They were returning from their off-shore location called ERA. Nine passengers and two crew on- board were all rescued alive. A S76 C++ helicopter marked 5N-BQJ belonging to Bristow Helicopters, which departed ERHA Platform enroute Lagos was ditched into the Atlantic Ocean 95 nautical miles into destination at about 10:20am local time.

However, Nigeria had had its fair share of accidents when on July 1991, 261 people died after a McDonnell-Douglas DC-8 aircraft flying hajj pilgrims to Sokoto on behalf of Nigeria Airways, crashed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in the worst accident in the history of commercial aviation in Nigeria.

Deadliest year
For the worst period, one must go back to 1972, which saw a remarkable 2,370 deaths and 72 fatal accidents. There were 11 crashes that saw at least 100 perish, including four Aeroflot flights, and others involving Iberia, Sterling Airways, Alitalia, British European Airways, Interflug, Spantax and Eastern Air Lines. Fearful fliers should be grateful the seventies are over. He following year, 1973, was the second deadliest on record with 69 fatal crashes and 2,028 deaths. The carriers involved in the biggest disasters that year included Royal Jordanian, Libya Arab Airlines, Invicta International Airlines, Varig and Pan Am. And, of course, Aeroflot, which had a staggering 17 crashes that year.

Experts’ perspectives
Aviation and tourism experts who attended the just concluded 13th edition of Akwaaba African Travel Market, identified various reasons why Africa achieved zero air accident in 2016, saying advancement in technology was a big factor in achieving the feat.
President of Sabre Network and Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, Gbenga Olowo, who delivered a keynote address on ‘2016 Africa Aviation Accident Free Year ‘‘What Did Africa Do Right”?, attributed the feat to airlines embracing the International Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), a safety assessment standard set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for all its members, saying, “IATA being an airline association through IOSA has made its members to be principally responsible for safety and not necessarily the regulator.

Regional Commercial Manager, West Africa, British Airways, Kola Olayinka, said when passengers buy tickets, they are basically entrusting their lives into the hands of the operators, adding that one cannot play with safety as a lot of things are being done right in the continent.
He however, wished that the continent would celebrate 10 years of accident free period, adding, ‘we do not want to investigate accident, we do not want them at all’.

Last line
The high safety level recorded by airlines in 2016 was greatly enhanced by the addition of airlines in the membership list of IATA members who strive for safety and go the extra mile to subject themselves to audit by other jurisdiction outside their own registration.


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