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This report covers various methods of improving aviation safety in Africa by implementing an effective and transparent regulatory oversight system. Africa has experienced a massive growth in air traffic in the recent past. For instance, the demand for air transport has increased, there are many airlines and Africa has experienced the highest growth in air transport globally. In addition, the African air market is large and many small airlines scramble for the market share too. The European Commission (EU) has noted that safety is one of the most critical weaknesses in the aviation industry of Africa, yet it is a necessary condition for development (European Union, 2009). Many indicators, such as the rate of accidents, safety evaluations and ICAO safety oversight audits show that perhaps Africa has the poorest aircraft safety record relative to other regions globally.
Key stakeholders in the aviation industry, such IATA, ICAO and other regulatory bodies have recognized the need to enhance air safety in Africa. Between 2006 and 2010, IATA and ICAO conducted studies and analysis of air transport accidents that took place in Africa. The analysis showed that many air transport accidents in Africa were related to weak regulatory frameworks, oversights and failure to implement several safety measures (International Air Transport Association, 2012).
The findings were used to develop intervention measures. From the analysis, they concluded that tools such as Flight Data Analysis (FDA) could help in identifying serious accidents such as “runway excursions, controlled flight into terrain and loss of control” (International Air Transport Association, 2012). Runway excursions were responsible for a significant percentage of air transport accidents in the continent. Therefore, enhancing air transport safety in Africa is imperative and the possible solutions must account for immediate resolutions of all identified critical safety issues.
Implement Safety Management System (SMS)
The SMS is a methodical strategy for managing safety issues in the aviation industry. It accounts for the suitable “organizational structures, procedures, accountability and policies” (International Air Transport Association, 2012), which can meet safety standards in the aviation industry.
Based on ICAO guidelines, service providers and airline companies should offer their own SMSs, which should meet standards and regulations by their respective countries (African Aviation, n.d). In this case, service providers include training institutions on safety issues, operators, permitted aircraft maintenance firms, aircraft designing firms, aircraft manufacturers and qualified aerodrome service providers.
Under ICAO guidelines, service providers should only implement recognized SMS in their respective countries. The implemented SMS must ensure the following safety aspects.
- A decline in costs and the need for audit resources for aircraft firms and regulatory organizations;
- The implemented system must identify potential safety concerns;
- It must institute corrective action required for acceptable standards of safety;
- The system must be able to offer continued assessment of the safety standards achieved;
- The ultimate goal of the implemented system is to improve the overall safety outcomes.
Implementation of IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA)
The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) is a safety approach that has achieved global recognition and acceptance in the aviation industry. The IOSA evaluates and assesses operational processes and control elements of airlines (Fadugba, 2006). IATA members must obtain IOSA registration and they have to uphold their registration in order to remain members of IATA.
The IOSA requirements provide the primary SMS assessment tool for safety standards. Many industry stakeholders have noted that IOSA is a global safety standard that was developed to enhance safety in the airline industry. From the IOSA database of 2011, the registry indicated that Africa-based airlines had “an accident rate of 1.84 per million flights, which above the world IOSA average of 1.73” (Fadugba, 2006). Professionals in the industry have recognized that the rate of accident for non-IOSA airline firms is extremely high at 9.31. The average rate of accident for non-IOSA organizations was significantly higher than the rate for other operators in Africa. Moreover, the rate of accident for non-IOSA operators has continued to rise (Fadugba, 2006).
The past tragic accidents in some of the African countries have shown that aviation safety is a major challenge even for countries with the best practices and stable safety standards. On the other hand, a report published in 2012 indicated that none of the IOSA registered airlines operating in Africa has been involved in any accident. This shows that carriers, which have implemented IOSA guidelines, are efficient and safe. In addition, they show that the Audit 900 standard is highly effective and efficient in enhancing safety. Therefore, it is imperative for the Africa air transport industry to implement it to curb accidents. For African airline companies, implementing the IOSA will enhance the following outcomes.
- Effective audit processes under the guidelines of IATA;
- Constant reviewing and updating of the safety standards to meet regulatory requirements and offer the industry best practices;
- Reduce audit challenges, costs and the need for several audit resources;
- The IOSA ensures requires service providers to be qualified and accredited;
- There are formal training courses for all audit organizations, which provide standardization in the industry;
- The IOSA provides structured audit processes with standardized methodology and safety checklists.
Therefore, implementation of the IOSA will enhance aircraft safety in Africa.
Implementation of the Runway Safety Measures
IATA, ICAO and other safety authorities in the airline industry have formulated the Runway Safety Program, which promotes safety in the aviation industry globally. The Runway Safety Measures account for safe flights during the start and conclusion. This measure remains one of the highest priorities among aviation safety authorities. Pilots, traffic controllers and vehicle drivers must adhere to Runway Safety Measures.
Consequently, the implementation of these measures will ensure the best practices during the start and at the end of a flight. Stakeholders must understand airfield markings and signage, provide current information on the runway usage and drives to reduce risks among others.
Implement Flight Data Analysis (FDA)
Implementation of the FDA is an important approach to enhance safety in the air transport industry in Africa. The IATA promotes the “Implementation Program for Safe Operations in Africa (IPSOA) to ensure that flight data analysis tools are available to all IATA carriers in Africa” (International Air Transport Association, 2012). Carriers that have adopted the FDA have recorded 56 percent decline in trajectories while airports with unsteady modes have been noted.
Africa can improve its aviation industry safety if it adopts and implements the above safety measures. The continent has recorded impressive growth in the air transport. Air connectivity has facilitated the integration of Africa into the global field. However, one must understand that air transportation in Africa faces myriads of challenges.
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The aviation industry has facilitated the growth in the tourism industry, job creations and emergence of high-tech and highly skilled workers (Tyler, 2014). However, safety remains a major source of concern for many African carriers. Today, Africa has the weakest share in the global air traffic, poorly developed intra-Africa aviation relations, slow creation of jobs, the use of older aircraft with an average of over ten years of fleet age and reliance on old and obsolete tools for air navigation and airspace management (European Union, 2009).
ICAO USOAP audit reports have revealed that the aviation industry in Africa experiences poor rates of effective implementation of ICAO guidelines and other safety standards. African countries have recorded below average outcomes in safety standard implementation relative to the global implementation outcomes. The EU notes that the challenge goes beyond compliance and poor implementation to show that, “Safety is really at stake” (European Union, 2009). Audits have revealed that safety deficiencies correlate with high a number of serious accidents in the African aviation industry.
The aviation industry must recognize that safety remains a major challenge and it can emerge in different forms. Thus, there should be a need to promote safe flying by implementing the global safety standards. The aviation industry in African can facilitate safety improvements by investigating past accidents and acting on the recommendations. Meanwhile, the aviation industry must improve on the implementation of the global standards and best practices as defined by IATA, ICAO and other safety organizations in the air transport industry. However, one must recognize the implementation challenge as indicated by past records among African countries. Therefore, African aviation industry requires a strategic action plan that can address safety concerns, develop regulatory requirements and facilitate implementation of the global safety standards and best practices.
African Aviation. (n.d). New Initiative on Aviation Safety. Web.
European Union. (2009). Improving Aviation Safety in Africa: A Necessary Condition for Development. Web.
Fadugba, N. (2006). Improving air safety in Africa. Web.
International Air Transport Association. (2012). News Brief: Strategic Action Plan to Improve Aviation Safety in Africa. Web.
Tyler, T. (2014). Improving African aviation safety, in the 100th year of commercial aviation. Web.