Max Kingsley-Jones/GENEVA

Efforts to improve the standard of air safety in Africa are moving forward after the first meeting of key groups from the region arranged by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The initial meeting of the IATA/AFI (Africa & Indian Ocean) air traffic control incident analysis working group took place during February at IATA's Geneva headquarters. Attendees included representatives from the International Civil Aviation Organisation, African airlines association AFRAL, South African pilots association ALPSA - representing the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA) - the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Association and ASECNA, which represents the French speaking nations of West Africa. The next meeting of the IATA-led group is due to be held in six months' time.

The relaxation of sanctions in South Africa has enabled the introduction of direct airline routes over Africa, rather than across the sea, and has seen a growth in traffic, raising safety concerns in certain areas of the continent. IATA director of infrastructure for the AFI region, Trevor Fox, who attended the meeting, says that the main areas of concern involve the busy north-south and east-west routeings across Africa, and particularly where they cross one another.

Fox says that the first meeting was successful and that there was no disagreement in the areas which need improving. "We will report our suggested actions directly to the authorities of the states involved, or to the pilots through IFALPA," he says.

"The truth is, in some states in Africa, charges are not high enough to sustain the necessary level of infrastructure. We must have cost based charges," says Fox. Inefficient bureaucracies mean that charges often remain uncollected and Fox says that introduction of the IATA collection and billing system would typically raise the rate of fee recovery from about 40% up to anything around 85-90%. Several countries, including Angola, Somalia and Uganda, have already signed for the service.

Fox lists improvements in Africa's ATC infrastructure - mainly in communication systems - which have been implemented so far, including the Southern African Development Community states satellite communications project for telephone and data communication and direct controller to controller links.

Fox adds that Chad has already introduced three remote VHF ground stations.

Source: Flight International