The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for a renewed focus on aviation safety to help Africa reap the benefits of aviation connectivity. The organization also called for a strong partnership to drive innovative solutions to the other challenges facing aviation in the region: security, environmental sustainability and infrastructure.
“Aviation’s connectivity has turned our planet into a global community. With two or three kilometers of runway, even the most remote outpost has access to the world through air transport. This is particularly important in Africa where there are often no land transport alternatives,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO, in a speech to the African Airlines Association (AFRAA). Speaking at their Annual General Assembly in Marrakech, Tyler outlined a vision for supporting the growth of African aviation through partnership and innovation.
“We must work together to ensure that every government in the continent understands aviation as an engine for sustainable development and a key pillar of economic strategy. Africa will benefit greatly by harnessing the power of a successful aviation industry. To ensure that aviation delivers on its potential, we must work together—industry and government—to ensure that aviation is safe secure, environmentally sustainable and well supported with efficient infrastructure,” said Tyler.
IATA noted concern over safety levels in Africa. In 2005 Africa recorded nearly 10 hull losses per million flights with Western built jets. By 2008 that had been reduced 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. Two hull losses so far in 2011 put the rate at 4.33 against a global average of 0.37. The trend is once again in the right direction. And there have been no hull losses this year with IATA carriers. But aviation must be safe for all airlines and in all regions. And that means we have much work to do in Africa,” said Tyler.
“It is time again to muster the political will that we found in 2005 to improve safety. I have high expectations for the African Safety Summit’s two ambitious goals for 2015: to reduce Africa’s accident rate to the global average and to remove African carriers from the European list of banned airlines. IATA does not believe that banning carriers improves safety. Implementing global standards and best practices—as we do with the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA)—delivers results. None-the-less, the list of banned airlines is a political reality that is not going to disappear. And improving safety is incumbent on all in this industry. So we need to work together,” said Tyler.
Runway excursions are the biggest safety challenge for Africa. Working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a revised Runway Excursion Risk Reduction Toolkit was produced this year. “For the toolkit to improve safety, it needs to be used—by airlines, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and airports,” said Tyler.
Tyler praised Nigerian Director General of Civil Aviation, Dr. Harold Demuren, who will complete his tenure in February 2012, for achievements in Nigeria. In 2005 it had the worst safety record on the continent with four of the eight hull losses in that year. Since 2007 Nigeria has had no hull losses. “Dr. Demuren’s leadership proved that world-class safety is possible in Africa. His work and many innovations should be an inspiration. Included among these, IOSA was made a requirement for long-haul operations from Nigeria. I urge other African governments to follow his example,” said Tyler.
IATA urged support across the continent for its Checkpoint of the Future concept, noting that Nigeria joined INTERPOL and over 12 countries in signing a statement of principles supporting the concept. Tyler also pointed out the improvements needed in cargo security, and expressed concern at the development of a ‘red list’ of banned countries by Europe. “Developing a red list is a flawed approach which does not address the underlying issues in cargo security. There is a better path: IATA’s Secure Freight program is a blueprint for a multi-layered approach to securing the air cargo value chain. This is an innovative way to help countries incorporate years of industry know-how and best practices so that they don’t have to start with a blank sheet of paper,” explained Tyler.
With COP-17 opening next week in Durban South Africa, Tyler repeated aviation’s commitment to environmental sustainability, through its targets of fuel efficiency improvements of 1.5% per year to 2020, carbon neutral growth from 2020, and a cut in net emissions of 50% by 2050 compared to 2005. He also noted the great opportunities for sustainable biofuels. “With the potential to reduce aviation’s carbon footprint by up to 80%, sustainable biofuels are an innovation that is a potential game changer. The challenge is commercialization. There is huge potential for Africa to develop local biofuels industries that could spread economic opportunities even in the most remote corner of the continent,” he said.
He also made clear the industry’s opposition to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which will distort markets and open the door to a patchwork approach of conflicting, competing or layered measures including taxation. “I urge all AFRAA members to stay engaged on the issue. It is important that you continue to communicate to your governments the importance of a global solution though ICAO,” said Tyler.
The development of cost-effective infrastructure is crucial to the future health of African aviation. But infrastructure development fees are being imposed on airlines with little prior notification or consultation. The combined annual cost to airlines of three introduced since 2008 in Mali, Senegal and the DR Congo is over $100 million, more than the African industry made in 2010. “Airlines and infrastructure providers share a common future. But we must safeguard and be guided by ICAO principles of non-discrimination, consultation, transparency, cost-relatedness and without pre-financing,” said Tyler.
African carriers posted a $100 million profit in 2010. IATA expects the continent’s carriers to break even in 2011 and fall into losses of $100 million in 2012. This is in line with a global trend of declining profitability in the face of global economic weakness.