Lois Jones/DAKAR

Air accidents in Africa are reducing, says ASECNA, the air navigation agency for Francophone Africa.

The number of reported accidents stand at 14 in 1998, compared with last year's tally of 30. Reported near misses stand at 17 this year, compared to 26 in 1997, says the agency.

The fall-off in accidents this year comes against a background of continuing traffic growth over Africa. Traffic was up by 13.9% between 1996 and 1997, to 5.1 million passengers, and the increase is continuing this year, confirms the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The growth follows the continuing upsurge in the number of flights to South Africa following the country's re-admittance to the international community following the end of apartheid.

Despite the falling accident rates, Amadou Cheiffou, ICAO's West African representative, admits that he is worried about the growth of regional traffic "-which poses a problem in our air traffic management systems [ATMs]".

Cheiffou's concern is shared by Trevor Fox, the International Air Transport Association technical director in Africa.

"While traffic in Africa is growing at an encouraging pace, we have to ensure that developing ATM systems are capable of meeting the demands of the next century," says Fox.

He is convinced that the move to the new satellite-based communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management system, provided that it is planned and executed correctly, will offer Africa that possibility. "Otherwise," he says, "we will never be able to catch up with our European and Asian neighbours."

Fox adds that planning must be carried out along entire traffic flow routes, explaining that it will do no good if, in the middle of a group of advanced states, there is one which is not able to maintain the pace of its neighbours.

Source: Flight International