Chris Yates/LONDON

An urgent safety bulletin spelling out the growing danger of flying in African airspace is expected to be issued soon by the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA).

Capt Tony van Heerden, president of the South African Airline Pilots Association says, that a statement will be issued, which will spell out "in broad terms, what the safety deficiencies are in respect of over-flight and operations into and out of regional airports and it will go on to stipulate what actions need to be taken to enhance safety".

The decision to raise this issue was taken at the recent IFALPA African region meeting held in Cairo at the beginning of October, and underscores the depth of concern being voiced by pilots flying regularly in the region.

"The situation has become so critical and dangerous that we pilots are no longer prepared to put up with it," says van Heerden.

"We have had a lack of separation, loss of separation, near misses and every other permutation imaginable," he adds, citing inability to raise air-traffic-control units by high-frequency radio and lack of co-ordination between adjacent flight-information regions as key concerns.

"These nation states are saying that they want us to fly over their country, but provide us with no air-traffic-control services - or services not up to the standard required - but we have to accept it. Somewhere along the line, however, a pilot is going to say he is not legally able to do so," he adds.

Van Heerden believes that the legal issue is the most powerful weapon available. He points out that, as a pilot is legally responsible for the safety of passengers - but unable to guarantee it because of unavailability of safety-critical support services - that pilot has a legal duty to draw attention to such deficiencies. He believes that, pilots may have a legal right to refuse to fly in safety-deficient airspace. "We will not let this issue rest any longer," he says.

"If non-compliance continues, then ultimately we may have to consider cessation of operations," he warns.

Source: Flight International