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Despite Ethiopian crash, air travel safer in Africa

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Despite Ethiopian crash, air travel safer in Africa

Africa is usually seen as a continent with huge risk but indicators suggest otherwise when it comes aviation. Despite challenges, the region ranks higher in aviation safety, writes WOLE SHADARE

 

 

Steady improvement
Aviation safety in Africa continues to be a central concern for governments and aviation industry stakeholders, although the situation has been improving in recent years.
Until the recent Ethiopian Airlines accident, African airlines had gone two years without any jet hull losses or fatalities.
This demonstrates progress after decades of poor safety records in some African countries, which could be attributed to lax regulatory oversight, obsolete infrastructure, aging and poorly maintained fleets and inadequate technical training of aviation personnel.

Airlines raise the bar
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), only 24 African states—out of about 104 states around the world—currently have a critical elements implementation score of 60 percent or above in the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme.
This program is considered the global benchmark in assessing the oversight capabilities of government entities charged with regulating civil aviation. Cape Verde, South Africa, Mauritania, Togo and Egypt rank are the top five African countries in terms of operational safety according to this metric, while countries such as Djibouti, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sao Tome and Principe score below 25 percent on implementation of the critical elements.
There has been a very positive trend with regard to many of the larger African flag carriers, such as Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Mauritius, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc.
These airlines strive to maintain excellent safety records that are on par with global industry standards, and they have great reputations among the traveling public in Africa.
Smaller carriers, such as African World Airlines in Ghana and Air Peace in Nigeria, have also made strides in recent years, as demonstrated by their successes in the IATA’s industry-benchmark Operational Safety Audit.
In 2018, African carriers that successfully completed this process averaged only 1.18 accidents per million flights, while other African carriers’ average accident rate was 9.79, according to the IATA. The global average accident rate was 1.35, which roughly equates to one accident for every 740,000 flights.

Increased safety compliance
Experts are crediting increased compliance with global aviation standards, better regulation and younger fleets for the improvement.
From less than three per cent of global passenger air traffic but more than two-thirds of fatalities just over two decades ago, Africa entered new territory when it reported zero deaths attributable to a commercial jet aircraft accident in 2016. The region maintained the record with no fatalities in 2017 as well.
African Jet aircraft losses first fell from an average of 2.21 hull losses between 2012 and 2015, to zero in 2016.
That compared with 0.18 for the Asia Pacific, 013 for Europe, 0.92 for the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Union republics) and 0.41 for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017.
While 556 people died in 15 fatal commercial airline accidents during 2018, data for the first half of the year shows that there was no fatal jet accident in the region. The only fatal accidents involved small propeller driven aircraft in which 14 people died.
One such accident was the FlySax Cessna 208 Grand Caravan that crashed into a ridge in Kenya’s Aberdare mountains killing eight passengers and two crew on June 5 and a June 24 Let410 cargo charter operated by Eagle Air Guinea in which four people died.

Africa, Ethiopia confront challenges
Africa and Ethiopian Airlines are dealing with its biggest challenge in years following the crash on March 2019 of Nairobi-bound Flight 302 soon after take-off in Addis Ababa. All 157 people on-board were killed.
The crash raised serious questions about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max jet, which was involved in another fatal accident last year in Indonesia. For all the focus on the crash in Ethiopia, major African carriers and civil aviation entities have made significant strides in improving their safety records in recent years.

Experts’ views
Commenting on Africa’s high safety record in relation with Ethiopian Airlines accident, Director-General of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac said in the case of Ethiopian Airways, it was not the first reaction.
“I have heard blames on the aircraft system. I have heard blames on Ethiopian. On my point of view, you find it difficult to say anything on that until after investigation is concluded.”
The IATA DG disclosed that both ICAO and IATA work in partnership in doing workshops, training, initiatives to help the authorities and airport operators for airlines to lift up the safety standards.
“We have all that relates to airlines in IASA, IASAGO. By implementing the standards of IOSA, we say automatically we uplift compliance with ICAO recommended standards. They go hand-in-hand and ICAO has accepted the IOSA as standards to uplift countries’ standards to where they should be.”
Similarly, IATA’s African envoy for aero-political affairs, Dr. Raphael Kuuchi said, “A number of factors account for the significant improvements in safety achieved by Africa in recent times.”
Kuuchu explained that following the Abuja Declaration in 2012, there has been effort among key players and stakeholders in the industry to improve aviation safety.
The IATA, the Civil Air Navigation Services organisation, AFRAA and the AU-based African Civil Aviation Commission have pooled technical, financial and material resources to help African states, regulators and airlines to tackle aviation safety.

Building safety capacity
To this end, capacity building courses as well as safety gap analyses were conducted at different points in Africa while states were continuously pushed to get their airlines to adopt the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA].
Besides more airlines signing up for IOSA certification, African states invested in infrastructure and committed resources to addressing safety gaps that have been identified through ICAO safety audits.
Also, concerned about the likelihood of unsafe aircraft entering its territory, the European Union introduced its AU Safety List in the early 2000s on which airlines deemed unsafe were banned from operating in the EU. The list was dominated by African airlines with the DRC and Nigeria taking the lead. This forced African governments and airlines to invest in air safety and airlines to buy newer aircraft.
Availability of new aircraft types that fit the thin African routes better has encouraged African airlines to transit from aged to new equipment.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, the average age of the African airline fleet is less than 20 years, compared with the high 30s two decades ago.
“New aircraft have better reliability and operational efficiencies. On average, they are less susceptible to technical failures than ageing aircraft,” Kuuchi added.

Last line
It is important for developed nations with stronger economic resources and interests in African aviation to assist African countries in modernizing their regulatory frameworks around aviation safety.

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Aviation

China’s new mega-airport ready to open

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China’s new mega-airport ready to open

China is poised to open a new mega-airport to the south of Beijing, already home to the world’s second-busiest aviation hub, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic.

Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX) will see its first commercial flight take off around September 20, according to Chinese state media, with main tenant China Southern planning to deploy an Airbus A380, the world’s biggest airliner, for the maiden journey.

The greatly anticipated airport ushers in a new era for air travel to and from the Chinese capital, which has been in desperate need of a second global gateway.

The existing Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) is hitting full capacity, making it nearly impossible for airlines to add flights at desirable times.

In 2018, more than 100 million travelers passed through its three terminals — making it only the second airport in the world to cross that passenger traffic milestone, after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta. China is projected to overtake the United States as the world’s biggest air travel market by 2022.

The multibillion-dollar Daxing, designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid and her Chinese partners, is built for the future, boasting four runways and a terminal the size of 97 soccer pitches upon opening of the first phase — as well as customer-service robots that will provide travelers with flight updates and airport information.

The “modest” initial operational target is to accommodate 72 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo annually by 2025. The ambitious master plan calls for the building of a total of seven runways, and moving at least 100 million passengers and 4 million tons of cargo a year through the airport.

Construction for the $11.5 billion project began in 2014, with more than 40,000 workers on site at its peak. The terminal bears all the hallmarks of Hadid’s signature contour lines, with plenty of natural light shining through its more than 8,000 distinct rooftop windows.

Nicknamed “starfish” by Chinese media for its shape of five concourses connected to a main hall, Daxing aims to reduce walking for passengers, long a complaint about many new mega-hubs. The airport authority has promised a distance of no more than 600 meters (650 yards) — about eight minutes of walking — between security checkpoints and the remotest gates.

Another passenger concern is Daxing’s location. It’s in the far south of Beijing, a city notorious for traffic jams. The new airport is some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Tiananmen Square in the city center — and even farther away from the main business districts in the east and north.

Brushing aside such worries, officials say they have built more than just an airport — but rather a truly integrated transportation hub that will eventually see high-speed rail, inter-city services and downtown-to-airport express trains all stopping right beneath the terminal. The airport express trains, traveling at a top speed of 160 kilometers an hour (100 mph), promise to whisk arriving passengers to the city in less than 20 minutes.

Yet others say a new mammoth aviation hub will only worsen flight delays in Beijing, already ranked near the bottom of on-time performance lists among airports worldwide.

There is no indication that the Chinese military, which controls most of the country’s airspace, will loosen its grip to give airliners more maneuver room. But aviation officials and airline executives predict reduced delays at Daxing thanks to its multi-directional runway design that improves operational efficiency in the air, as well as its location south of Beijing — eliminating many flight detours aimed at avoiding the city’s large “no-fly” zone.

Alliance shakeups, time slot shifts

For frequent fliers around the world, though, it may take some time to figure out if Daxing will be their preferred gateway to the Chinese capital.

It was going to be a crown jewel for Skyteam, one of the three global airline alliances, with China-based members China Southern and China Eastern — each assigned 40% of the new airport’s departure and arrival time slots by the government — moving all their Beijing flights to Daxing to become anchor carriers. Other Skyteam members such as Delta, Korean and Air France-KLM will move to the new airport in phases.

China Southern, however, will now leave Skyteam by the end of this year, having signed agreements with several members of rival Oneworld alliance, including American Airlines and British Airways, for closer cooperation.

Adding another twist to the confusing plot, Air China — the country’s flag carrier and a Star Alliance member — was supposed to remain at the current Capital Airport along with other Star carriers. But it was recently given 10% of Daxing’s time slots after authorities allowed China Eastern to keep its highly profitable Beijing-Shanghai shuttle flights at Capital, reports CNN.

All the tenant intrigue aside, Chinese officials are eager to showcase the country’s newest mega-hub to the world upon its grand opening, announcing that flights from Daxing will cover 112 destinations around the globe by next spring.

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S’African airline cash injection imminent, says it needs more

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S’African airline cash injection imminent, says it needs more

South Africa’s cash-strapped national airline SAA says a government cash injection of 5.5 billion rand ($376 million)approved for the 2019/20 financial year is expected at the end of the month but it still needs more money, a presentation to lawmakers showed on Wednesday.

South African Airways (SAA) has debt of about 12.7 billion rand, consisting of 9.2 billion rand of legacy debt and a 3.5 billion rand working capital facility provided by banks, reports Reuters.

“SAA requires 2 billion rand to fund working capital in FY 2019/20 by December 2019,” the presentation said.

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Aviation

S’African airline cash injection imminent, says it needs more

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S’African airline cash injection imminent, says it needs more

South Africa’s cash-strapped national airline SAA says a government cash injection of 5.5 billion rand ($376 million)approved for the 2019/20 financial year is expected at the end of the month but it still needs more money, a presentation to lawmakers showed on Wednesday.

South African Airways (SAA) has debt of about 12.7 billion rand, consisting of 9.2 billion rand of legacy debt and a 3.5 billion rand working capital facility provided by banks, reports Reuters.

“SAA requires 2 billion rand to fund working capital in FY 2019/20 by December 2019,” the presentation said.

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Aviation

Ethiopian crash victims want 737 MAX documents from Boeing, FAA

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Ethiopian crash victims want 737 MAX documents from Boeing, FAA

A lawyer for victims of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 said on Tuesday he wants Boeing Co and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to hand over documents about the decision to keep the Boeing 737 MAX in the air after a deadly Lion Air crash last October.

A week after Lion Air Flight 610 nose-dived into the Java Sea, killing all 189 aboard, the FAA warned airlines that erroneous inputs from an automated flight control system’s sensors could lead the jet to automatically pitch its nose down, but the agency allowed the jets to continue flying.

Five months later, the same system was blamed for playing a role when ET302 crashed on March 10, killing all 157 passengers and crew and prompting a worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX that remains in place.

“The decisions to keep those planes in service are key,” Robert Clifford of Clifford Law Offices, which represents families of the Ethiopian crash victims, said at a status hearing before U.S. Judge Jorge Alonso in Chicago.

Nearly 100 lawsuits have been filed against Boeing by at least a dozen law firms representing families of the Ethiopian Airlines crash victims, who came from 35 different countries, including nine U.S. citizens and 19 Canadians.

Families of about 60 victims have yet to file lawsuits but plaintiffs’ lawyers said they anticipate more to come. Most of the lawsuits do not make a specific dollar claim, though Ribbeck Law Chartered has said its clients are seeking more than $1 billion.

The lawsuits assert that Boeing defectively designed the automated flight control system. The system is believed to have repeatedly forced the nose lower in both accidents.

Boeing declined to comment on the lawsuit directly but said it is cooperating fully with the investigating authorities. The manufacturer has apologized for the lives lost in both crashes and is upgrading software. But it has stopped short of admitting any fault in how it developed the 737 MAX, or the software.

The FAA said it does not comment on litigation. The agency has defended its decision not to ground the 737 MAX sooner and has said it is following a thorough process for returning the jet to passenger service.

Clifford, who was appointed lead counsel on Tuesday to represent the majority of plaintiffs suing Boeing over the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said he would pursue two tracks in the case: one for clients who wish to settle with Boeing and another for those who want to push for discovery.

In his role as lead counsel, Clifford will help the different plaintiffs “speak with one voice,” said Ricardo Martinez-Cid of Podhurst Orseck, a law firm that is also representing Ethiopian Airlines crash victims.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers who represent victims of airline crashes generally work for free and receive a percentage of the settlement or award.

Amos Mbicha, who lost his sister and her son in the crash of ET302 which occurred soon after it departed Addis Ababa for Nairobi, said some Kenyan families had not sued yet because they had difficulty choosing between the many law firms seeking to represent victims, reports Reuters.

“You look at the brochures, it all looks like everyone worked on the same cases,” he said. “It’s confusing for people.”

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against Boeing by families of Lion Air crash victims, who were almost all from Indonesia. Those cases are already in mediation and are not expected to be consolidated with Ethiopian Airlines.

“While the cases share some common issues there are big differences, most importantly the critical evidence of what Boeing did and did not do between October and March,” said Justin Green, a lawyer from Kreindler & Kreindler, who was appointed co-chair of the plaintiffs’ committee on Tuesday.

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Aviation

Bees delay flight for over two hours

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Bees delay flight for over two hours

Bad weather. A technical fault. A late-arriving aircraft. Just some of the reasons your flight might be delayed.

One to add to the list: a swarm of bees.

On Sunday morning, Air India flight 743 from Kolkata to Agartala was delayed by two and a half hours after a swarm of honeybees clamped themselves onto the window of the flight deck.

The swarm took up residence on the left hand window panes, obstructing the pilots’ vision.

Windscreen wipers failed to remove the bees. The swarm was only cleared when the airport fire crew was recruited to use water cannons.

The plane had already been delayed 90 minutes due to a technical fault, before the bee attack added an extra hour’s delay.

The flight to Agartala, in northeast India, takes just 60 minutes.

“The plane left the parking bay at its scheduled departure time, then there was a technical issue and it had to return back to the parking bay,” Kolkata airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee told CNN. “There was a delay of 1.5 hours due to the ground staff attending to the technical fault.

“After that, there was a bee attack. A swarm of honeybees came and landed on one section of the cockpit glass. Thousands of bees just sat on the left side of the cockpit window blocking the view of the pilot.

“The pilot tried to remove the bees by using windscreen wipers but it didn’t work.

“Airline staff informed the airport authorities and we deployed a fire tender from the fire station located inside the airport. Using a water cannon, they dispersed the bees.”

The plane took off two and a half hours behind schedule. There were 136 passengers on board, including Bangladeshi politician Hasan Mahmud, the country’s Minister for Information.

Kolkata airport — Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International — is one of India’s busiest, processing 21.8 million passengers a year, with 40 million predicted by 2021.

It is known as one of the country’s most modern airports, using solar panels to generate energy.

Bhattacharjee told CNN that airport staff had carried out checks for bees in the wake of the incident.

“We did not find any beehives on any structures inside the airport,” he said. “They came from outside the airport premises.”

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Plane makes emergency return to airport after engine fire reported

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Plane makes emergency return to airport after engine fire reported

Officials say an Air China jet bound for Beijing has made an emergency return to Dulles International Airport after reporting an engine fire.

In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration says that the Air China flight landed safely Tuesday in Washington after reporting an engine fire and that its pilot was in contact with air traffic control at all times.

The FAA says Air China Flight 818 departed Dulles at 4:39 p.m. EDT and returned at 5:54 p.m.

A spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority identified the craft as a Boeing 777, which the aircraft maker says seats from 317 to 396 people, reports The Associated Press.

A spokeswoman with Air China didn’t immediately respond to requests for additional information.

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Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

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Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

The head of the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority said on Sunday he was not optimistic that the Boeing 737 MAX would return to operations this year and that the first quarter of 2020 was more likely.

The 737 MAX has been grounded since March while Boeing updates flight control software at the center of two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people within a span of five months.

Boeing Co is targeting regulator approval for the fixes in October, though the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has said it does not have a firm time for the aircraft to be flying again.

The GCAA will conduct its own assessment to allow the MAX to return to UAE airspace, rather than follow the FAA, Director General Said Mohammed al-Suwaidi told reporters in Dubai.

He said the GCAA would look at the FAA decision and that the UAE regulator had so far not seen details of Boeing’s fixes.

The FAA has traditionally taken the lead on certifying Boeing jets, though other regulators have indicated they would conduct their own analysis.

UAE airline flydubai is one of the largest MAX customers, having ordered 250 of the fast-selling narrow-body jets, reports Reuters.

It has not said when it expects the aircraft to be operational again. American Airlines has canceled flights through Dec. 3, United Airlines until Dec. 19 and Southwest Airlines Co into early January.

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Aviation

Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

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Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

The head of the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority said on Sunday he was not optimistic that the Boeing 737 MAX would return to operations this year and that the first quarter of 2020 was more likely.

The 737 MAX has been grounded since March while Boeing updates flight control software at the center of two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people within a span of five months.

Boeing Co is targeting regulator approval for the fixes in October, though the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has said it does not have a firm time for the aircraft to be flying again.

The GCAA will conduct its own assessment to allow the MAX to return to UAE airspace, rather than follow the FAA, Director General Said Mohammed al-Suwaidi told reporters in Dubai.

He said the GCAA would look at the FAA decision and that the UAE regulator had so far not seen details of Boeing’s fixes.

The FAA has traditionally taken the lead on certifying Boeing jets, though other regulators have indicated they would conduct their own analysis.

UAE airline flydubai is one of the largest MAX customers, having ordered 250 of the fast-selling narrow-body jets, reports Reuters.

It has not said when it expects the aircraft to be operational again. American Airlines has canceled flights through Dec. 3, United Airlines until Dec. 19 and Southwest Airlines Co into early January.

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Aviation

Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

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on

By

Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

The head of the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority said on Sunday he was not optimistic that the Boeing 737 MAX would return to operations this year and that the first quarter of 2020 was more likely.

The 737 MAX has been grounded since March while Boeing updates flight control software at the center of two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people within a span of five months.

Boeing Co is targeting regulator approval for the fixes in October, though the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has said it does not have a firm time for the aircraft to be flying again.

The GCAA will conduct its own assessment to allow the MAX to return to UAE airspace, rather than follow the FAA, Director General Said Mohammed al-Suwaidi told reporters in Dubai.

He said the GCAA would look at the FAA decision and that the UAE regulator had so far not seen details of Boeing’s fixes.

The FAA has traditionally taken the lead on certifying Boeing jets, though other regulators have indicated they would conduct their own analysis.

UAE airline flydubai is one of the largest MAX customers, having ordered 250 of the fast-selling narrow-body jets, reports Reuters.

It has not said when it expects the aircraft to be operational again. American Airlines has canceled flights through Dec. 3, United Airlines until Dec. 19 and Southwest Airlines Co into early January.

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Aviation

Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

Published

on

By

Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

The head of the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority said on Sunday he was not optimistic that the Boeing 737 MAX would return to operations this year and that the first quarter of 2020 was more likely.

The 737 MAX has been grounded since March while Boeing updates flight control software at the center of two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people within a span of five months.

Boeing Co is targeting regulator approval for the fixes in October, though the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has said it does not have a firm time for the aircraft to be flying again.

The GCAA will conduct its own assessment to allow the MAX to return to UAE airspace, rather than follow the FAA, Director General Said Mohammed al-Suwaidi told reporters in Dubai.

He said the GCAA would look at the FAA decision and that the UAE regulator had so far not seen details of Boeing’s fixes.

The FAA has traditionally taken the lead on certifying Boeing jets, though other regulators have indicated they would conduct their own analysis.

UAE airline flydubai is one of the largest MAX customers, having ordered 250 of the fast-selling narrow-body jets, reports Reuters.

It has not said when it expects the aircraft to be operational again. American Airlines has canceled flights through Dec. 3, United Airlines until Dec. 19 and Southwest Airlines Co into early January.

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