According to a recent BBC report Africa accounts for only 3% of global air traffic, but is responsible for 17% of fatal air crashes.
Just yesterday 5 people died when an airplane crashed in Angola. The same day a conference in neighboring Namibia wrapped up, inaugurating a new body, the Africa Civil Aviation Agency (ACAA), to improve safety standards in African aviation.
It's generally agreed that pilots, technicians and flight controllers in Africa are skilled enough. It's the owners of the airlines and those running the airports that save on costs by not doing repairs or ignoring general safety issues, that lead to most of the problems.
In the meantime people will just have to pray for a safe landing because the road conditions and the sheer size of some countries, means there's little alternative than to take to the skies. For those of us vacationing in Africa, flying is the only way to get to enjoy several sights within a short period of time. And the only way to reach many of Africa's less visited countries is to hop on a local aircraft.
So what African airline is safe to fly? Airlines that are well-financed, have several international routes (which means they have to adhere to world class safety standards) and good reputations; include South African Airways and *Ethiopian Airlines. Kenya Airways was on the "good" list until this May, when a Kenya Airways plane crashed in Cameroon killing all 114 passengers on board.
What African airline should you avoid if possible? All domestic airlines flying in Nigeria(responsible for 3 major crashes in the past 2 years); Airlines that use old Russian army planes (where you actually sit on plastic chairs in the dark); and airlines flying around the DRC.
Naturally the web offers plenty of information if you are worried about flying an African airline. A web site called Planecrashinfo lets you check on the safety records of all airlines. And Airsafe.com lists all the African airlines with no crash record (although sometimes it takes a plane crash to improve airline safety).
Image courtesy of © South Africa Tourism
*Ethiopian Airlines Jet Crashed - January 2010. Similar to the Kenya Airways crash. But both airlines still operate under good safety regulations. It appears bad weather conditions were to blame for both accidents involving the same model Boeing 737-800.