Many people all over the world still fly with their hearts in their mouths because of fear of plane crash. But the impeccable global aviation safety and over five years of accident-free in Nigeria’s aviation sector and the recent verdict that 2017 was best year ever for aviation safety will rekindle hope in the sector. WOLE SHADARE writes
Best year ever
In a year when more people flew to more places than ever, 2017 was the safest on record for airline passengers.
Airlines recorded zero accident deaths in commercial passenger jets last year, according to a Dutch consulting firm and an aviation safety group that tracks crashes, making 2017 the safest year on record for commercial air travel.
There were no commercial passenger jet deaths in 2017, but 10 fatal airliner accidents resulting in 44 fatalities on-board and 35 persons on the ground, including cargo planes and commercial passenger turbo prop aircraft.
2017 was the safest year for aviation ever both by the number of fatal accidents as well as in terms of fatalities.
Over the last two decades aviation deaths around the world have been steadily falling. As recently as 2005, there were 1,015 deaths aboard commercial passenger flights worldwide, the Aviation Safety Network said.
In 2016, 412 people were killed in the United States in aviation accidents – nearly all in general aviation accidents and none on commercial passenger airlines.
The chances of a plane being involved in a fatal accident is now one in 16 million, according to the lead researcher, Adrian Young.
But air safety expert says ‘It is unlikely that this historic low will be maintained’ and warns of risk of electronic devices causing inflight fires.
No jets crashed in passenger service anywhere in the world. The two crashes, which occurred on New Year’s Eve – a seaplane in Sydney, which killed six, and a Cessna Caravan that crashed in Costa Rica, killing all 12 on board – are not included in the tally, since both aircraft weighed less than 5,700kg – the threshold for the report.
The streak continues
It was a beautiful year also for Nigeria as the country has continued to record accident-free year since the crash of Dana some seven years ago aside light aircraft accident killing a former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu at the Lagos airport shortly after take-off.
Nigeria’s share of crashes
The numerous crashes witnessed, be it the Dana, Sosoliso, Bellview, ADC, EAS, and many others around the globe make people to think twice about whether or not air travel is safe or not.
The crashes increased the fear for people who are already afraid of flying and temporarily make people who may not be phobic to be scared of flying. Nigeria witnessed her worst form of plane crashes between 2005 and 2012 where planes were falling off the sky, leading to passengers taking to road travel.
They could not be convinced that there was serious oversight on most of the planes and airlines in the country until the appointment of a former Director-General of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Olusegun Demuren, who sanitised the system.
However things seem to have improved from 2014 to 2017. Nigeria has not recorded a major aircraft accident since that period.
It is therefore clear either the domestic airlines are now more careful to repeat the mistakes of the past and may have stepped up with regards to making safety their watchword, while the new entrants that have not witnessed major accidents may have taken seriously the recommendations of Accident Investigation Bureau and that of the NCAA.
Airlines take bull by the horn
Experts in the sector have disclosed that the reason Nigeria had accident-free year in 2017 is basically because airlines were principally responsible for safety and intensified their human capital development.
Chairman, Aviation Round Table, Gbenga Olowo, noted that in the past five years, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) have made its members to be principally responsible for safety and not necessarily the regulatory body.
“Airlines in their strive for safety also do not go the extra mile to subject themselves to audit by other jurisdiction outside its own registration. For example, The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification in addition to that of the NCAA”, Olowo stated.
He explained that carriers have also identified human capital development through routine and schedule training for all pilots in particular error account for about 80 per cent of all aviation accidents.
He disclosed that there has also been implementation of safety management system and more budgets have been set aside for maintenance and dedicated account for maintenance reserve as accident is planned through neglect and poor maintenance.
Speaking on accident free year for Nigeria, Olowo also observed that operators are successfully moving to newer and younger fleets with lower operational and maintenance cost, making available funds at low costs through financial institutions.
He said there have been more economic lease and lesser purchase considerations from aircraft suppliers, as well as continuous advocacy for improved aviation infrastructure, acceleration of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety related standard and recommended practices.
An aviation safety expert who pleaded anonymity, said airlines have the tendency to cut corners but noted that it is the responsibility of NCAA to ensure proper checks are carried out on the airlines, especially on the aircraft maintenance and pilot certifications.
He noted that during accident investigations, AIB is able to reveal a lot of things either on the side of the regulators, the airlines or service providers.
The media plays a huge part in magnifying the illusion of control. Plane crashes are turned into video images of twisted wreckage and dead bodies, then beamed into every home on television screens, says an accident investigator. In a society with a free press and a great number of publications, the likelihood that bad things will happen can be overstated to the point where the public begins to think and act irrationally.
However, despite these high profile disasters and the media coverage around them, last year was industry’s safest.
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