Airlines have urged Western governments to do more to improve safety in Africa, and accused the European Union of failing to grasp the continent’s needs by banning dozens of carriers.
The head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents most major airlines, said a list of operators banned from the EU included several that are safe, that and the EU failed to aid others needing practical help.
Plane crashes in Nigeria and Ghana have killed over 160 people in the past week, increasing concerns over Africa’s safety record, Reuters reports.
“The airlines on the EU blacklist are on it because the EU hasn’t adequate confidence in the safety oversight provided by regulatory authorities, so the airline can be perfectly safe but the EU decides the regulator isn’t doing its job,” said IATA’s Tony Tyler, director general of the Geneva-based airline lobby.
IATA says its members must pass a tough check-up called the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). Airlines in the scheme, which also contains many non-IATA members, had a 53 percent better safety record last year than ones outside it, Tyler said.
“This is why we think the EU banned list is a misguided approach. It is not helping anybody and it is not improving safety.”
The latest EU blacklist includes 279 carriers from 21 states, 14 of which countries are African.
The list includes a handful of IATA members including Sudan Airways and part of the fleet operated by Air Madagascar.
IATA says African aviation safety improved from 2010 to 2011, but the continent’s accident rate is still the worst in the world.
A Boeing McDonnell Douglas MD-83, operated by privately owned Dana Air, hit an apartment block as it was coming in to land in Lagos last Sunday, killing 153 people in Nigeria’s worst air disaster for decades.
The crash came 24 hours after a Boeing 727 cargo jet operated by Nigerian carrier Allied Air overshot the runway at an airport in the Ghanaian capital Accra and veered onto a street, killing at least 10.
It was the first crash in decades in Ghana, whose airspace has a fairly strong safety record compared with other West African countries.
A spokesman for the European Commission defended the system of banning airlines in countries with poor a safety regime.
“The safety performance of an airline depends on several factors, not only on the airworthiness of aircraft: for instance pilot and crew training and fitness and airline safety procedures,” he said.
IATA’s Tyler said the EU let European airlines serve countries whose own carriers were banned not necessarily as a result of the failings of non-EU carriers, but because of concerns over regulation of airspace.
“It smacks of double standards and is the wrong approach,” he said.
“The right one is to get in there and help resolve the deficiency in regulatory oversight. Let’s go and assist the regulators to remedy that deficiency – putting their airlines on a blacklist isn’t the right approach,” he added.
IATA, whose 242 member airlines are holding a major industry gathering in Beijing on June 10-12, says it has come up with a five-point plan to improve safety in Africa.
It includes helping airlines collect data that can be analysed to avoid future problems. Other measures include more training to help pilots avoid sliding off runways, a common cause of accidents where weather is often extremely bad, and infrastructure is poor.