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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 December 2005, 12:03 GMT
How safe is it to fly in Africa?
Plane crash in Nigeria
As investigators sift through the wreckage looking for the cause of Nigeria's second air disaster in less than two months we're asking, are Africa's skies safe?

So far this year, there have been 57 air accidents and 1,229 fatalities, according to the Aviation Safety Network which monitors air crashes worldwide. Out of those, 15 happened in Africa and 390 people died.

And in 2004, a quarter of all accidents occurred in Africa - a region where air traffic is growing rapidly but which still accounts for only 4.5% of global traffic, according to the International Air Transport Association.

So, why is Africa prone to air accidents? As air companies rush to take off are they and governments ignoring safety? Should some pilots and planes not even be in the sky?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

When heads start rolling for air disasters in Africa then officials will start taking their jobs and other people's lives seriously. The problem of impunity in Africa for almost all crimes is at the bottom of such disasters.
Sillah, Conakry, Guinea

I am from Gabon and it is scary to see those planes take off and land. I ask myself when the next crash will happen. Most of those planes are more than 30 years old and should not be allowed to fly as they are poorly maintained. Pilots are irresponsible because they take chances every day flying those flying coffins.
Placide Matsiaba, Mikouma, Gabon

Safety standards vary from country to country. Strict rules and aviation standards should be applied without compromise. Our air space in Kenya is the one of the safest in Africa due to strict checks and controls by our aviation board. But in corrupt African countries, aviation licences are issued even in bars and this is a disaster in waiting.
Saidi Medi, Nairobi , Kenya

With 27 years experience in the air force, 16 of this in the cockpit and now retired, I think the problem of any air crash is the compromising of safety standards whether administrative, operational, engineering, logistics and even political.
Ajibulu, Lagos, Nigeria

I think the federal government should start screening airplanes brought into Nigeria. There should be restrictions based the age of aircraft brought into the country or we will harvest more disasters.
Bola Oluyemi, Warri, Nigeria.

It is obviously a sad lapse in airline safety that has turned the carrier services into flying coffins. Life is obviously a risk but one may still question whether it is worth taking the risk of flying in Africa. A overhauling across Africa's aviation industry is needed and expatriates should be sought to recommend practical solutions to the issues of safety.
Sehubo Akinyanmi, Birmingham UK

When will the Government of Nigeria learn? Whenever I travel on a domestic flight I get cold. The runways are bad and the planes are 20 years old and there are no safety signs. We need an official body to represent all African aviation.
Kasim Badru, Nigerian in London, UK

I do not have the authority to speak on behalf of other African countries, but I can vouch for South African Airways. I've travelled extensively on SAA, both international and domestic, and found its aircrafts to be safe and reliable. Since its existence, SAA had only had 4 accidents, the last one being in 1987. SAA travels to major European and North American cities. Had they been unsafe, the governments of those countries would long have banned or suspended it. Long live SAA!
Lebo Monyatsi, Cape Town, South Africa

We are still learning the ropes in Africa. Most times, during flights, we tend to forget we are in the air and think we could possibly stop to correct the engine or other problems, so we 'manage' old planes, unqualified personnel, and dilapidated navigational facilities at the expense of human lives. God will help us.
John Odey Okache, Abuja, Nigeria

I think it is safe to fly in Africa in spite of fatal accidents
Rev Paul Bala Samura

I think it is safe to fly in Africa in spite of fatal accidents. I believe that plane crashes are not only limited to the African sky. However, sadly, many airports are very dark for night landings and take-offs, which usually cause difficulties for crew to fly safely. If African leaders place priority on safety flying in Africa, the continent would be flooded with bigger and well equipped airlines. There are numerous companies that want to invest in airline trade and all that remains is a conducive atmosphere for flying.
Rev Paul Bala Samura, Freetown, Sierra Leone

The aviation sector is a place which should be exclusively reserved for experts to occupy for things to work, but in our own part of the world, it is for political appointees who do not know the abc and xyz of aviation rules.
Dr Olumide Awofeso, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria

I am very proud of our national carrier
Gezahgen Kebede, Houston, USA

All African airlines are not the same. I think that Ethiopian Airlines, for example, is one of the best airlines not only in Africa, but also in the world. It is the pride of African aviation and, indeed, one of the safest airlines in the world. It is worth mentioning also that Ethiopian Airlines is 100% operated and managed by Ethiopians/Africans. I am very proud of our national carrier.
Gezahgen Kebede, Houston, Texas, USA

Some of the airlines operating in Nigeria have 'flying coffins' as airplanes
Ekundayo Shittu, USA

Some of the airlines operating in Nigeria have 'flying coffins' as airplanes. The newest airplane amongst them is over 15-years-old! The desire for excessive profits by the operators at the expense of an adequate maintenance culture plus the inefficiency of the control regulatory body and policies by the authority contribute significantly to what we are experiencing today. Unless the government revises and updates the requirements for private entry into the airline business, introduces monitoring schemes to put the operators in-check, and carry out an absolute refurbishment of the infrastructures for safe landing and take-off, we may not have heard the last of these avoidable crashes!
Ekundayo Shittu, Massachusetts, USA

African countries should reactivate the rail transport to reduce the dangers of air transportation.
John Onyejiegbu, Calabar, Nigeria

Our airspace is safe and we have the best pilots you can ever think of in the world
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso, Ghana

When there is one problem with Nigeria, that does not mean the whole of Africa has that problem. Our airspace is safe and we have the best pilots you can ever think of in the world.
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso, Accra, Ghana

Most airlines operate old second-hand aircrafts; mechanical services are not done regularly; safety standards, for instance, load capacity, are sometimes ignored and there is such a rush to travel that sometimes bad weather conditions are ignored. Government aviation agencies and the international aviation organization should ensure that passenger safety takes precedence over commercial expediency by enforcing aviation rules in Africa.
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leonean in USA

The same reasons as to why road carnage is so high in Africa will apply here!
Bob, Kakamega, Kenya

Why is Africa prone to air accidents? I could go on and give you a laundry list of all the reasons. Here is a continent that is struggling with financial problems. These countries get these airplanes through the "throw-them-a-bone" programme by the west which happens every once a decade so that the west can be seen as doing something. The fact that these countries do not have the parts, manpower or technology to maintain these planes is almost irrelevant. The same reasons as to why road carnage is so high in Africa will apply here!
Bob, Kakamega, Kenya

The major concern is the practice of unscheduled flights, poor maintenance, ageing charter airline fleets, untrained crews and the illegal movement of aircraft in war-torn countries. Many countries in Africa have a habit of importing second-hand older generation aircrafts from Russia and other countries to boost capacity. What sometimes looks like a solution may in fact be a trap. There is a major need to ban the import of aircraft more than 20-years-old.
Josephat M Mua, Kenya, USA

As you mount the aircraft till you descend your heart is in your hands
Morfaw Rene, Belgium

Flying in Africa? That is like buying a one way ticket to hell. The services in the flights are appalling. The flights are never on time, always late. As you mount the aircraft till you descend your heart is in your hands. What really bothers me is the fact few African presidents and ruling political figures have had to suffer air disasters. Too little attention is given to the air safety of commoners.
Morfaw Rene, Southern Cameroonian in Belgium

As more second-hand planes come to Africa, Africa's air will remain deadly and very unsafe
Asonganyi, Cameroon

How can the air in Africa be safe in the midst of corruption, where an air line company can pay for its low quality second-hand planes from Europe and the US to keep flying in the sky as long as it can take off and land. These planes cannot fly back to Europe and the US because they are not accepted so they just fly from one town to another within Africa since some government officials in Africa accept money and never check the planes. So, as more second-hand planes come to Africa, Africa's air will remain deadly and very unsafe.
Asonganyi Defang Akuakem, Yaounde, Cameroon

Africa is prone to accidents because we tend to take things concerning safety for granted. When an aircraft is built with emergency exits, and an airline decides to put seats on the line of the exit, what happens when there is an actual emergency? To me it doesn't really matter whether an aircraft was built in 1975 or 2005, if it is properly maintained and necessary improvements are done to accommodate new flying standards.
Victor Owo, Eket Nigeria


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