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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Five bad flights in Africa
The BBC's weekly interactive programme, Africa Live! looks at the problems of flying in Africa.

Below, some of our journalists and contributors outline their worst experiences.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton (ex-BBC Network Africa)

Gaffer tape
Gaffer tape - essential for keeping an aircraft together
One of my favourites is when you are sitting on the aircraft and you just happen to have a free seat next to you - and you think, "my goodness, I can lie down and sleep after one of those heavy assignments".

And then as you begin to relax, you see one of those huge West African traders, she could be from Ghana, Nigeria or Senegal or Togo, you name it.

Then you hear the footsteps coming down the plane boom, boom, boom and then you hear move over! Their 25 kg luggage is hurled onto your lap, their boom box is pressed against your shoulder.

You all but carry their clothes on your head, whilst of course this very, very determined woman, who is going to sit right there, tries to shove her stuff into the overhead compartment - but there is no room left.

So you end up carrying her stuff on your lap - and that's how your two-hour trip is going to end.

Mark Gleeson (BBC African Sport)

The most hazardous part of air travel in Africa remains the charter flights - and that's where most of the accidents have occurred in the last couple of years.

I have been on some hair-raising chartered flights myself.

Not so long ago, in Zimbabwe, we landed in Bulawayo for refuelling and as the plane was taking off we saw a little red light flashing in the cockpit. An alarm went off throughout the plane and there was fuel oozing out of the wings.

The pilot took off, calmly landed the plane again, and went to the back door.

Some of the more unusual passengers on Nigeria airways
He closed it a little more solidly and simply took off again.

Commercially, the strangest flight I have ever been on was on Nigerian Airways back in 1992, going off to cover a football match in Lagos.

The woman who sat next to me had a chicken coop full of young chicks... she was obviously taking them from a market in Abidjan to Nigeria.

During the flight there was a fair amount of turbulence and the bulk head collapsed off the roof.

But overall I found airlines in Africa to be fairly good standard, although air hostesses and air stewards are not as thorough as their counterparts in America and Europe about safety.

Asumana Pelima (Emailer, a Liberian in the US)

In February of 2002, I travelled to Liberia for my mother's funeral.

My luggage has never been lost by an African Airline, nor can I recall any serious delays and certainly no cancellations.
Andrew Cover (Emailer from UK)

I got to Monrovia three days late. I had to sleep over in Ghana, which was not part of the original schedule.

The ride was stressful because of the age and condition of the carrier from Baltimore to Ghana and back - I noticed duck tape used in place of a screw to hold two internal pieces together.

Worse, the flight from Liberia to Ghana was very rough for almost an hour, and many passengers cried out in fear that the plane was about to crash.

E.Campbell (Emailer from Jamaica)

I recently visited West Africa and took a flight from Sierra Leone to Accra - and experienced the most disgusting, frustrating period of my entire existence in this world.

Hansie Cronje
South Africa's Hansie Cronje perished in a plane crash
Never in my life have I ever seen an airline staffed by such incompetent, rude and unprofessional staff, whose daily function seems to be to harass and frustrate as many passengers as possible.

A flight of one-and-a-half hours took me three days to complete, none of the staff at the check-in counter knew when the flight was leaving, the manager angrily replied when queried about the departure of the flight that he "was not the pilot, therefore he couldn't tell when the flight is leaving".

As a black person visiting Africa for the first time I never believed that I would reach the stage of my life where I would choose a European institution over an African, but in the case of its airlines I think Africa has a long way to go if they want to compete in the real world.

Nigel Harper (Emailer from UK)

Before the fortunes of Sudan Air nosedived and crashed and burned beneath the Sahara sun about 10 years ago, it used to be known as the Camel Express.

One particularly memorable flight I was on to Johannesburg involved one of the toilets overflowing and running down the aisle.

The plane had to stop in Khartoum to fix the problem, and while on the ground the air conditioning had to be turned off.

However, because no-one had visas, we were forced to sit in the baking oven that the plane was rapidly becoming on the tarmac for four hours under the sweltering mid-day sun.

The stench of human effluvia was overwhelming and at least half a dozen passengers subsequently made use of the sick bags which only added to huge unpleasantness of the situation.

After a couple of hours a scuffle broke out between a passenger in first class and one of the crew, which grew to involve about 10 people, and for the remaining two hours the plane was patrolled by armed police until we took off.

Happily two days later Sudan Air died and I know of no-one who mourned its passing.

This programme was broadcast on the BBC World Service on Wednesday 18 June at 1630 & 1830GMT.

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Ghana Airways seeks outside help
13 Jun 02  |  Business

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