African Air Safety Back on IATA’s Radar

 - April 22, 2013, 12:55 PM
The IATA Operational Safety Audit deemed the safety record of South African Airways on par with those of more than 380 airlines around the world. But IATA continues to work toward improving the still-poor safety standards among the continent’s other operators. (Photo: Airbus)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is redoubling efforts to help African airlines improve the continent’s poor accident rate. “It is no secret that the biggest gap [in airline safety performance] is in Africa,” said IATA director general Tony Tyler at the group’s international operations conference in Vienna on April 15. “Compared with a world rate of 0.20 Western-built jet hull loss accidents per million sectors in 2012, Africa’s rate was 3.71.”

The next day Tyler flew to Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where he urged African governments to work more closely with the air transport industry to give greater priority to policies that could improve safety. In January, a joint IATA/ICAO Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan won endorsement as part of the inter-governmental Abuja Declaration and ratification by the Assembly of the African Union. Tyler pointed out that African carriers covered by the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registry suffered no accidents involving Western-built aircraft last year. Even when considering accidents involving other aircraft types, the overall safety record of IOSA-registered African airlines met global standards.

IATA next plans to introduce its Enhanced IOSA (E-IOSA), designed to audit carriers based on more than 900 safety standards, supplemented by internal quality assurance programs with a self-auditing methodology. Backed by both the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency, the program calls for 10 of the new E-IOSA audits this year and full implementation by the end of 2015. In support of the safety initiatives, IATA plans to launch its new Global Aviation Data Management system next year to act as the worldwide online repository of safety data.

However, Tyler also used the Vienna conference to demand an end to what he characterized as a fragmented approach to regulating operating requirements that has seen states introduce new rules that don’t correspond with existing ICAO standards. “This is particularly a problem in matters involving an airline’s air operator certificate and [operational specifications], in which regulators in one state issue new requirements affecting operators from another,” he said. “There is a better way: rather than continuing down the path toward increasing fragmentation of widely accepted standards, we require a global solution such as ICAO’s AOC database. I know representatives from some of aviation’s leading regulators are attending this conference and I have a simple message for you: It is time to ‘stop the madness’ regarding ops specs and return to the ICAO standards and move forward on the AOC database.”