STAKEHOLDERS in African aviation industry, including policy makers and aviation firms are brainstorming in Nairobi, Kenya on the myriad of challenges facing the sector with a view to helping the continent find lasting solutions.
They admitted that with Africa’s projected yearly economic growth which is expected to make air travel affordable and with over 800 million people, the continent has now become the focus for foreign investments. The three-day 21st yearly African Aviation Conference and Exhibition with the theme, “Enhancing Air Safety through Cost-Effective Aircraft Maintenance” ends today.
In his welcome address, the Chief Executive of Kenya Airways, Dr. Titus Naikuni explained that the recession in Africa and the growing fuel price had made African airlines to rethink their strategies. He lamented that Africa had been put in bad light as a result of alleged appalling air safety record, adding that the onus was on the region to prove everybody wrong that it can indeed operate safely and profitably.
“For us in Africa, we have always been put in bad light. For us, we have an uphill task to convince those people that it is otherwise. Safety remains top in our agenda. We are working to meet the change in technology, ensure availability of fuel efficient aircraft and to tackle many of our other problems,” Naikuni said.
In his opening remark, a former Secretary General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Nick Fadugba lamented that air safety was still a challenge in spite of the forecast that air travel would grow in the coming years. According to him, LAM Mozambique and TAAG Angola Airlines are two airlines among many others that are feeling the pain of EU blacklist. The two carriers adversely affected by the EU blacklist and ban from operating from EU airspace are however working diligently with their respective governments to resolve the problem.
Both airlines have appealed to the EU to revisit its procedure of imposing operating bans to ensure the policy is conducive to improving air safety in Africa, rather than being punitive. Similarly, the Director General of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Col. Hilary Kioko (rtd) who noted that the top priority in aviation is safety, expressed concerned with the rate of air safety in Africa.
To him, between 2005 and 2008, the western built Jet hull loss rate in Africa improved from nearly 10 hull losses per million flights down to two.
“That was still 2.5 times worse than the global average. But it was a significant step forward. In 2009, the rate jumped back to 9.94 and in 2010, it was 7.41. For the first 10 months of 2011, with two hull losses, the rate was 4.33 hull losses per average of 0.37. Sure, the trend is back in the right direction, and there have been no hull losses this year with IATA carriers,” he said.
Kioko however said aviation must be safe for all airlines in the region, just as he enjoined everybody to work to ensure air safety in Africa.