According to some statistics, the aviation accident rate in African is nine times worse than anywhere else on earth. But it is improving, partially because of increased focus on the region internationally, but also because of efforts like the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe Skies Africa (SSA) program that began in 1998. It is now focusing on increasing the number of African countries that meet international aviation safety standards, and that means training accident investigators.
Dennis Jones, a senior NTSB air safety investigator, became his organization’s representative to the Nairobi-based SSA initiative in 2007. “I wanted to see what was really behind all the safety issues I’d heard about,” said Jones, a pilot and licensed mechanic. “On-the-job training [of new investigators] is helping these countries develop their own accident investigation organizations…..Just getting their accident investigators up to speed on general aviation and commercial aircraft can be difficult since we see so many Eastern bloc aircraft in Africa,” he explained.
Safe Skies Africa is currently focused on East Africa, primarily Kenya, where Jones was embedded with the Kenyan Air Accident Investigation Department.