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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Dangers of flying in Africa
By Lucy Jones
BBC News Online

Air crash in Bangui, Central African Republic 2002
The aircraft ran out of fuel a minute from the runway

Air crashes in Africa are not uncommon.

While living in the Central African Republic a large Boeing cargo airplane carrying onions from Chad crashed into a neighbourhood not far from where I lived.

Only one of 22 passengers survived - a crew member who took refuge in the metal-walled kitchen.

He had lived through several crashes - which he regarded as one of the dangers of working on African airlines.

He told investigators that the aircraft had crashed because it had run out of fuel - a minute before reaching the runway.

1983 Angolan Airlines Boeing 737 - 126 killed
1987 South African Airways Boeing 747 - 160 killed
1989 French UTA DC-10 - 171 killed
1995 Cameroon airliner - 60 killed
1996 Antonov-32 cargo plane - 350 killed
2000 - Kenya Airways Airbus - 169 killed

A few days later, a friend working for an aid organisation crashed an aircraft upon landing - the termite hills on the red dust runway had got in the way.

My friends who flew diamond dealers to mines in the bush would say they were often forced to fly overloaded.

Travelling by air in parts of Africa can be fraught with inconveniences.

Flights can be delayed for days or in some cases even weeks at a time, with passengers often given no compensation or even a hotel bed.

To arrive with all one's luggage intact can be nothing short of a miracle.

Limited transport

But flying can also be dangerous.

Mark Pilling, managing editor of London-based Airline Business recommends passengers travelling across the continent to stick to established airlines.

"Scheduled airlines in Africa are safe as anywhere else - generally," he said.

But scheduled airlines do not exist in many corners of Africa.

And given the vastness of the continent and the lack of road and railway networks, there is often no other way of getting around, other than to fly.

Scores die in freak air tragedy
09 May 03  |  Africa
Air disaster timeline
09 May 03  |  In Depth

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