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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Are Africa's airlines safe?
The safety of Africa's airlines has come under scrutiny after Saturday's plane crash in the northern Nigerian city of Kano.

At least 148 people were killed when the plane ploughed through tin-roofed huts, a mosque and a Koranic school. Many of those who died were on the ground.

President Obasanjo has called for an immediate and detailed investigation into the disaster - the worst in Nigeria since 1966.

Concerns have been expressed about the use of older aircraft by private domestic carriers, and some foreign embassies have forbidden their staff from flying on certain airlines for safety reasons.

In April, the Nigerian Government announced a ban on the use of aircraft more than 22 years old, a move that triggered strong protests from private local airline operators.

Do you think Africa's airlines safe? Are planes properly maintained? Are emergency and rescue services up to the job when accidents occur?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Sad news indeed. But Africa's record is very good when put in perspective. I've personally flown Ethiopian, Kenyan, and Zimbabwean airliners many times and have always been impressed and not in the least reluctant to travel. So next time an accident happens, look first to the circumstances, the aircraft, the carrier, the nation, and lastly to the continent, before tarring everyone with the same brush. Please?
Curtis, Zimbabwean in UK

I used to work for SAA in South Africa and was trained in many aspects of airline safety. It is sad when there is loss of life in any airline disaster. African skies hold the same safety risks as any other sky and safety advisors are doing a great job throughout the world.
Ingrid Mellor, UK

I wonder what prompted this question. Because I hope it is not the Kano air disaster. Planes crash everywhere in the world - including the USA and Britain - don't they?
Johnie Efoh, Lagos, Nigeria

African airlines are as safe as European and American Airlines. Notable among African carriers are Kenya Airways who have modernised their fleet, Air Zimbabwe with no crash record in our 50 years of flying, SAA and Ethiopian. The challenge facing African carriers is the capital to purchase new aircraft not lack of engineering or crewing skills. Please note that some European based private carriers bring their aircraft to some African countries for maintenance.
Norbert, Zimbabwe

When one country suffers an accident, do not blame the whole of Africa.

Knowledge, Zimbabwean in USA
African skies happen to be the safest on earth! Check how many deaths occurred as a direct result of aircraft accidents in Africa as compared to Europe or Americas or Asia. You will be surprised how safe Africa's skies are. After all in Africa we can keep your American/European/Asian manufactured equipment running long after the manufactures stop providing spares. But when one country suffers an accident, do not blame the whole of Africa. Nobody blamed the whole of the civilised world when the Concorde, supposed to be the icon of modern aviation, crashed. I feel safer aboard African airlines than any other.
Knowledge, Zimbabwean in USA

I flew domestic Nigerian airlines constantly over the past two years. The investment in maintenance is not there and the aircraft are older to begin with. Also, air traffic control is not up to Western standards. That said, the piloting is impressive, and of course the skies are less crowded.
Nick, USA

My colleagues and I fly all over Africa using African air carriers. Considering the resources most African nations have to devote to aviation the record speaks for itself.
Connie H, USA

At the end of the day accidents happen

Michael, England
Every air accident is a tragedy and one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the thousands of decisions a pilot should make to fly a plane safely. At the end of the day accidents happen and there is no way we can make flying 100% safe. To question the safety record of African airlines has nothing to do with this unfortunate accident
Michael, England

Every time accidents occur in the Third World, questions are raised about safety and reliability. Why? Most airlines in Africa have some form of First World backing. Why is it not the responsibility of the backers who invest less and thus compromise safety?
Layla, UK

When the Tanzanian government wanted to purchase modern aviation equipment, the West and the World Bank branded it wasteful expenditure. When accidents happen, the West blames them on African governments not purchasing modern technology. The West simply can't have its cake and eat it.
Bruce Imboela, Zambian in USA

I am certain that Africa's airlines are as safe as the others, if not the safest

Goradew, Ethiopia
I am certain that Africa's airlines are as safe as the others, if not the safest. Such a crash happened to airlines equipped with the most sophisticated technology. It is a matter of incidence, nothing else. But when it occurs in Africa the usual economy (poverty) comes to everybody's mind as a reason. So it is better to accept the crash as an incident, instead of going around the bush to look for irrelevant reasons.
Goradew, Ethiopia

I am sorry to hear of the tragedy that occurred last Saturday in Kano. I was just three weeks ago on that same flight from Kano to Lagos so you can imagine the attachment this story has to me. I think the planes are older but safe in Africa, the problem lies in the maintenance of these aircrafts. Africa has to do more to bring flight mechanics up to par and mandate airlines to some sort of safety measures.
Salieu Jalloh, Los Angeles CA USA

It's unfortunate that African traffic problems are being brought to question in such a way. I think this is a deliberate act to malign an otherwise growing sector. Think of it, accidents do happen (recently China and no whole sale condemnation of Asian continent), the causes determined and corrected accordingly, with lessons bitterly learned. I suggest systemic analysis of individual airline problems and not offering opportunities for enemies of Africa to hit us below the belt ... of course, this is part of commercial wars and some sort of advertising, meant to promote mainly the EU airlines making abnormal profits from African routes. Please fellow airline users, regard this as a deceptive marketing ploy.
Lagat, Kenya

Can anyone tell me why when something happens in Africa, then the whole continent is at stake? I was in France recently and the crime wave is far worse than South Africa by no generalisation. The Milan plane accidents, in a very short time, were not blamed on the European continent. Africa is a continent, not a country.
Ahmed Mussa, Sweden

Concerning the recent plane crash on the Northern part of part of Nigeria, Kano State on the 4th of May was a shock to all Nigerians. Meanwhile, making the pollution of Nigeria decline to a lower standard. Now that is not too late, the ECOWAS and the Nigerian government should join hands and look for the black sheep when it's not too dark, so as to sustain the life of many Nigerians, not only Nigerians and Africans as a whole. All hands must be on deck so that we can build a better Nigeria.
Okpongette E. Jonah, Nigeria

The technical and maintenance aspects of the airline industry in Africa are largely handled by American, European and other foreign nationals. If the skies over Africa are unsafe, then the competence and honesty of the expatriate staff must also be called into question.
Ndu Obasi, UK

I think the African aircraft technicians are doing a sterling job in keeping their antique aircraft safely in the air

Onias Mabgwe, Zimbabwe
Airline accidents happen the world over. I would have thought they should happen less in developed nations but statistics show otherwise. I think the African aircraft technicians are doing a sterling job in keeping their antique aircraft safely in the air. Once in a while one crashes but this should not put African airlines on the spotlight merely because they are African.
Onias Mabgwe, Zimbabwe

When was the last time some of these passenger planes were serviced since they were manufactured? The answer to the Zambia-Gabon crash is still a mystery! I now try to fly from Paris to Cameroon via air Cameroon or fly Kenya airways/Nigeria Airways from Kenya to Nigeria.
Nsambila Cecilio Mbolela, Chicago, USA

The big question is Which African countries manufacture aircrafts? None. So, obviously all the parts for the aircrafts have to be imported and poor African countries do they have the funds? I can only count a few like SAA-a jewel in the sky, air Botswana, air Namibia and Ethiopia airlines for now. This includes the way the airliners are managed as well.
Allen Kasomali, Zimbabwe

Any accident of a airliner is sad but you asked this question as if Africa have air accidents every month. Let's ask is American airliners safe? How many accidents have America before September 11?
D. Ako, USA

I prefer African Airlines over any Western airlines

Abiye, Ethiopian in the US
I prefer African Airlines over any Western airlines. African pilots have a passion for their job unlike their European counterparts, hence African pilots have taken safety into consideration. Do you remember the Ethiopian Airlines pilot who performed a miracle close to the Island of Commoros? I have yet to see such tactics by westerners.
Abiye, Ethiopian in the US

Airlines crash all over the world and we don't hear other continents make sound bites like we do when African airliners fall.
Jackson K. George Jr, Liberia/U.S.A

The airline accident in Africa is much less than any other continent. The knowledge and experience of most African pilots is phenomenal. What I know for sure is that the Ethiopian airline is one of the best airlines in the world, and is as competitive as any airline in Europe or America.
Hailu, USA

It is very sad to hear about the lost of many innocent lives in Nigeria. We are really saddled with so many factors and problems in the country. But when I listen to western media and sometimes western governments going on about safety measures, I get really sad that they have contributed immensely to our situation and mishaps too. These already-used planes came from the "superpowers" countries, if at all these planes have been overused why sell them to us (Nigeria) and other African countries? There should be a re-think from the part of the companies that sell these planes. If the various governments should take safety measures seriously, then the companies must also aid in selling sky-worthy planes. Some of these criticisms are really unfair and unjustified from Europe.
Alex, Rome

The airline crash in Nigeria is a sad one. I have seen a plane crash in the Florida Everglades. Concorde, the pride of European aviation, crashed; I have seen plane crash at the Kennedy Airport and many other places in Europe, and elsewhere in the world. These crashes did not mean that the planes were not properly maintained. They were accidents and so is any aviation accident in Africa, including the Kano crash.
Cillaty Daboh, USA/Sierra Leone

I agree with my South African friend, Ian. Let us not hastily generalize. I am proud of the Ethiopian airlines, both as an African and as an Ethiopian.
Dawit Berga, USA

Africa must learn more about technology, otherwise we will be 100 years behind Europe and the USA. We must not buy a dusty airliner from the west. It must be a safe and high quality.
Gureey Calijiir, Somalia/living in Denmark

We need to define the safety failures, corrections, standards and implementations before blowing the noise on the (African) skyline. Perhaps someone should tell me why the FAA is still down with it in the US, which is a developed world, before pegging a pen on Africa as a whole. Yes we have (our) problems in Africa, but should the whole thing be generalized or taken case by case? Or is Africa 'one' raw meat easy to roast? But whatever the case, African governments need to do more to modernise (and train) their airport facilities to match with the changing world.
Njuguna Mwangi, Kenyan in the US

South African Airways, while probably not representative of all airlines on the continent, has earned numerous international awards. Obviously, there are always problems with costs of maintenance and age of aircraft and parts, but I felt perfectly safe floating over Africa aboard SAA.

They must also try to catch up with fast growing aviation technology

Wondwossen, Ethiopian in US
This recent tragedy in Kano, Nigeria, is a strong reminder that African airline companies as well as governments must work hard to put the safety of their passengers first. They must also try to catch up with fast growing aviation technology. Otherwise, African skies will remain one of the most dangerous in the world.
Wondwossen, Ethiopian in US

African air traffic infrastructure is in a perilous state, never mind the actual airliners themselves. If Africa wants to attract tourists it needs to be seen to be taking effective measures to make the skies safer.
Jonathan Gill, UK

The problem with many airline operators in Africa is that they use ancient equipment, which is poorly maintained, and crewed by questionably competent crew members. As a result, safety is pretty poor, but it is not a problem unique to just the continent of Africa. Airlines in the United States and other western countries have similar problems if operated under like conditions, but western nations take much more stringent steps to avoid the same.
Chris Williams, USA

The kind of cost cutting measures that are perpetrated in Africa are no different to those in the rest of the world

Chewe Chileshe, Zambia
Of course they are safe. I am more worried about getting on American Airlines than any African airline. The kind of cost cutting measures that are perpetrated in Africa are no different to those in the rest of the world that avoid implementation of extra safety due to cost. I can, however, admit that the emergency and rescue services need some work.
Chewe Chileshe, Zambia

Why is it that when, say, a French airliner crashes, it doesn't bring into question the safety of the whole European airline industry? Africa is a CONTINENT, not a COUNTRY, and it's about time people starting treating different African nations differently.
Ian, RSA

I quite agree with Ian. If you look at airplane crash statistics, you'll realized that African Airlines are a lot safer than either the European or American, considering the modern infrastructures and new equipments on one hand, and the almost derelict structures and machines some African airlines have to do with. It's true more has to be done in terms of security, emergency and rescue personnel, modern equipments and regularly checked planes.
Anthony Fonebi, Cameroon/USA

I second Ian from South Africa's comment. Very well said. Check the safety stats of both South Africa and Zimbabwe, you will find that Europe and the United States records pale in comparison. Keep up the good work SAA and Air Zim. The rest of the world needs to take a good look at them selves before down grading progressive states in Africa.
Angela , Zimbabwe

I am very sorry to hear this sad news. Loss of life of any kind is awful. One of the major problems in Nigeria is the poor transport system, either by road or by air. I have just managed to return safely from Nigeria. I was told to avoid air travel in that country as it was considered unsafe. Instead I decided to travel by luxury coach, which is run by various private companies. In the past I have enjoyed travelling with them. During this trip I joined one, Aba Abia State, going to Lagos. The vehicle broke down and in the middle of the night armed robbers visited. Now you can understand when I say that I just managed to get back safely.
Dr I.W. Wokoh, England

See also:

06 May 02 | Africa
05 May 02 | Africa
04 May 02 | Africa
04 May 02 | Africa
04 Jan 02 | Business
25 Feb 02 | Country profiles
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