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Nigeria on trial over ICAO safety audit

Nigeria’s recent spate of airline accidents has earned it a place among the first wave of nations to be targeted under an International Civil Aviation Organisation scheme to drive up safety standards in the developing world.

The country, in which two domestic fatal crashes occurred during 2005 and serious damage was caused to foreign aircraft by debris or animals on the runways of its international airports, will in November be subjected to ICAO’s expanded universal safety oversight audit programme (USOAP). Nigeria was one of the worst performers in a year when accident numbers and passenger fatalities worldwide rose significantly.

The country was audited once before, in 2001, under the original USOAP procedures. The programme now extends to checking oversight compliance with all the Chicago Convention Annexes, and upon completion of the follow-up audit the complete report, rather than a summary of it as previously, will be sent to all 188 other ICAO treaty signatory states (Flight International, 6-12 September 2005). Nigeria did not request the audit nor other states suggest it, but ICAO determines when and where to carry out safety audits according to several criteria, including the number of accidents suffered and the availability of audit resources. The USOAP is designed to check whether the national aviation agency in a given country has the expertise, resources and authority to maintain effective safety oversight of its commercial air transport and general aviation industries.

Meanwhile, Flight International’s annual safety review has revealed that 2005’s world airline safety performance shows a reversal of the trend towards improved safety that had been established over the previous 10 years. There were 34 fatal airline accidents causing 1,050 fatalities, compared with 2004 in which the figures reached an all-time best safety performance, with 28 fatal accidents and only 466 fatalities. There were, however, no fatal accidents involving major airlines, and the airlines that did have fatal crashes were almost all smaller carriers based in countries with poor economies that already had a mediocre safety record in their air transport industry. Also, none of the aircraft types involved in the accidents were from the most recent generation of airliners (basically post-1990), reinforcing the established fact that each generation of airliners has brought improved safety performance.

DAVID LEARMOUNT / LONDON

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