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Crash highlights IATA safety drive

Nigeria’s second fatal airline crash in 2005 occurred in mid-December, just as the International Air Transport Association launched a drive to help African states upgrade safety standards. The Association has also told all its member airlines they must complete an IATA operational safety audit (IOSA) successfully within two years or they will lose their membership.

IATA’s senior vice-president safety, operations and infrastructure Günther Matschnigg says the risk to people flying African airlines is 17 times higher than on North American carriers. Regionally, Africa has by far the poorest safety performance in the world, says IATA.

For that reason, the Association announced the “Focus on Africa” safety programme at a meeting earlier in 2005. IATA now has Kenya Airways participating in the programme’s implementation, and has received inquiries from national governments and aviation authorities about using IOSA as a tool to raise their airline safety standards. Matschnigg names Egypt as the region’s first nation that may adopt IOSA as a state requirement, but he says Jordan and Turkey have also asked for presentations on the scheme.

The latest Nigerian accident occurred on 10 December when a Sosoliso Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 crashed on landing in stormy weather at Port Harcourt airport, killing 108 of the 109 people on board. On 23 October, a Bellview Airlines Boeing 737-200 crashed soon after take-off from Lagos to Abuja with no emergency call shortly after the crew had asked air traffic control for assistance in avoiding storms in the area. All six crew and 111 passengers died in that accident. The crash of the 22-year-old Sosoliso DC-9 (5N-BFD) has brought to 12 the number of fatal air transport accidents in Africa during 2005 so far.

Matschnigg confirms that when the IOSA was first conceived about five years ago, it was not IATA’s intention to make it a condition of membership. But he says the Association’s board decided on 9 December that the time had come to make the IATA badge a sign that an airline meets or exceeds International Civil Aviation Organisation safety standards and operates a safety management system.

DAVID LEARMOUNT/GENEVA

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