David Learmount/LONDON

The world's two leading aviation agencies, have come out in support of an International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Association (IFALPA), claim that severely inadequate air-traffic control (ATC) in three-quarters of Africa's airspace, combined with massive increases in air traffic over the continent, pose a serious and growing risk of mid-air collision.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that it "-shares the deep concern of the pilots, but does not believe that all flights over Africa are inherently at risk". The Association says that the pilots' outburst, worded as a formal warning of disaster, may have already shocked some of the accused states into action.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) says that it has long recognised that most of the continent's ATC services are "critically deficient" compared with the levels of service the individual states undertake to provide. It adds that its assistance programmes to African states have been largely unsuccessful.

IFALPA says that: "In the last two years, an estimated 300% increase in traffic between Europe and South Africa has resulted in a series of serious incidents, each with safety implications. With a continued growth in demand for air travel to the south of the African continent the number of serious incidents must, inevitably, increase. At least 75% of the ATC infrastructure in Africa is unable to provide the services that are required- three-quarters of the Flight In-formation Regions within Africa permit uncontrolled flight in ICAO Class G Upper Airspace, which means that separation between aircraft flying in instrument meteorological conditions is not provided by ATC."

ICAO has declared all but seven African states "critically deficient" in ATC capability. The seven "safe" states are: Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia in the north, and Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the south. IFALPA adds the proviso that not all the "deficient" states fail to provide every ATC service.

In a bid to push other agencies into some form of action, IFALPA has spelt out the deficiencies which have to be addressed, including:

Non-compliance with ICAO standards;

Failure to notify defective facilities;

Inadequate ATC infrastructure, and technically sub-standard ATC units;

Inadequate communications with aircraft and other ATC centres (ATCCs);

Inadequate radar coverage;

Lack of air-traffic-controller/ communicator training and competency;

The reliance on pilots using the In-flight Broadcast Procedure (IFBP) to arrange their own separation for lack of an ATC service, and some pilots do not adhere to the IFBP;

On mandatory use of transponders.

IATA has admitted that IFALPA's complaint has "-helped to put pressure on" the states concerned to react to offers of assistance which IATA and ICAO have been making for many years.

The first measures which IATA says it wishes to see are full-area VHF radio ATC communications coverage to replace the widely used HF, and provision of data- and voice-links between ATCCs.

Source: Flight International