Captain Maverick

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Aviation safety in Africa-A personal perspective

Aviation Accidents in Africa a perspective- It is with a very sad and heavy heart that i write this piece and will first of all extend my condolence to all the bereaved families mourning the loss of dear ones both in Ghana and Nigeria.Since 2005,when there was an overwhelming uproar over the safety of aviation in West Africa especially Nigeria,i know a lot of effort has been put in place to get our safety management to shift from reactive to proactive and relatively,it has been calm along the west coast.The recent tragedies involving two aircraft in Ghana and Nigeria highlights the endless fight to reduce risk of aviation mishaps to a state that is as low as reasonably possible.For those who think that there is something like zero accident rate,let us begin to rethink our perspective.Risk is inherent in every aviation operation and all that we do is to balance safety with operational profitability.For these two accidents we will have to look at things along 5 main perspectives.
Man- what was the level of training of the crew,in terms of technical skills and crew resource management skills?.Most crew of aircraft at least are technincally proficient,but the biggest area is in the arena of CRM.This involves error detection and management,Intra and inter cockpit communication,aeronautical decision making ,task priorotisation and allotment and general cockpit leadership and consensus,constructive critiques of courses of action aimed at arriving at a favourable end state.For example,why will pilots decide to continue an approach to land during a stormy weather condition,knowing the explicit hazards of windshear,gust,slippery runways with hydroplanning,and poor visibility? Your guess is as mine.Simply put appreciation of the hazards and the risk to safety.What was the physiological state of the crew? were they fatigued?,stressed? exceeded Flightduty time? .
This are some of the issues that we must dig into.
Pyschologically were the crew under any pressure to meet the expectations and demands of employers?
Machine- was the aircraft serviceable? was it capable of meeting the demands of the mission or task alloted? were there any technical airworthiness directives that had not been complied with? One will not expect an aircraft without antiskids and effective reverser to decelerate to a stop after a overshoot of the landing thresholds and still make the landing distance when it is heavy on a contaminated runway and possible with a tail wind.
Medium- What kind of external environment is the flight being conducted in? Is it thunderstorms,haze,Gusting winds, snowy or very hot? Was it an area of High Terrain,sea,desert ? All these conditions have their adverse effect on the ability to conduct safe flights .Effective flightplanning must consider all these.What type of runway? Is it long enough to meet the operational demands of the aircraft?Is the runway grooved? Do we have overrun areas like blast areas ,Engineered materials arrester systems?

Misssion- What was the operational demands of the flight? Were all the requirements of the mission met? What was the mission demands? For example in the case of the Allied Air overrun,what was the mission demands on the crew?

Management- this is where i think a lot of scrutiny and emphasis must be placed.What are the regulatory oversights over operations? What are the organisational culture and norms in the airline? Is it one that tolerates at risk attitudes and behaviours? Is it one that has a good safety culture? and rewards safe operations?

I hope this will stimulate the investigative process and help all of us to develop a predictive and pro active safety management system in West Africa..