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Read more about Much ado about global airlines’ safety rating

by January 8, 2018 General

No Nigerian carrier made the list of the world’s greatest 409 carriers , in a survey carried out by airline safety and product rating. The survey  exempted Nigerian airlines  from its list of ‘20 safest carriers for 2018’- a situation that has put  the country’s domestic airline operations to test. Why did Nigerian carriers not make the list ? asks  KELVIN OSA OKUNBOR.

Safety rating for global airlines is not a difficult undertaking if stakeholders  agree on the criteria  for such an exercise.

Bu rating airlines could become a difficult curve to navigate if such safety verdict stirs unease in the air.

Last week’s global rating rolled out by for 409 major airlines across the globe may have raised more questions than answers on the safety status of airlines.

“The rating classified some 20 carriers as top safest airlines” in 2018. It declared some as the least safest airlines.

This classification may have sparked a global row as some experts contend that is  not the only body saddled with rating airlines. Germany’s Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC) does likewise.

However, the two bodies are unable to  agree on the safety status of some of the classified carriers.

Nigerian carriers are not contesting the verdict. This is not unconnected with their seeming inability to meet the parameters set for this category.

Criteria for Safety Classification 

After examining  409 major airlines, considering some criteria not limited to : previous incidents ; the average age of their fleets ; audits from governments and the aviation industry’s regulatory bodies the website gave it verdict.

It  also considered  stringent audits from the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which evaluated both the operational management and control systems of an airline.

Top  20 safest airlines

The website placed Qantas in the top 20 list for the fifth year in a row, making the Australian airline a leader in safety standards.

It praised Qantas for its “extraordinary record of firsts in safety and operations”.

The website listed the other airlines according to  its criteria  to include : Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air,  Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM and Lufthansa .

Others are: Royal Jordanian Airlines,  Scandinavian Airline, Singapore Airlines,  Swiss, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

Confirming the rating, spokesman of the website, Geoffrey Thomas  said : “Our top 20 safest airlines are always at the forefront of safety innovation, operational excellence and the launching of new more advanced aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.

“Qantas has been the lead airline in virtually every major operational safety advancement over the past 60 years and has not had a fatality in the jet era.”

Thomas said the  ratings were not based simply on the number of safety incidents an airline had suffered, but how such incidents were managed.

“All airlines have incidents every day and many are aircraft manufacture issues, not airline operational problems. And it is the way the flight crew handles incidents that determines a good airline from an unsafe one. So just lumping all incidents together is very misleading,” he said.

But, the German body  considered Cathay Pacific as the safest airline ahead of Air New Zealand, Hainan Airlines, Qatar Airways and KLM .

It said Virgin Atlantic, British Airways,  EasyJet and Ryanair are not as highly rated as contained in the website.

World Least Safe Airlines

Besides, the verdict on the safest carriers , the website also announced its lowest ranked airlines for 2018.

It listed  Air Koryo, North Korea’s flag carrier, Bluewing Airlines, based in Suriname, Indonesia’s Trigana Air Service, and four Nepalese carriers – Buddha Air, Nepal Airlines, Tara Air, and Yeti Airlines as carriers with safety record.

Investigations reveal that there   are currently more than 100 airlines  banned from European Union airspace.

The affected airlines are not only  facing operational restrictions but are unable to meet European safety standards.

They include airlines from : Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Sudan, as well as dozens from Indonesia.

Efforts by Nigeria to step upairlines’ safety 

In the last few years, Nigerian carriers have embraced the International Operations Safety Audit ( IOSA) programmes to improve their safety rating.

The IOSA programmes organised by global airlines regulator : International Air Transport Association ( IATA) has brought about the enlisting of Nigerian carriers on the registry of the body.

Besides, Arik Air , Aero Airlines, First Nation Airways, Medview Airlines, Air Peace, DANA Air and Overland Airways that are enlisted in the IATA registry, these carriers have been encouraged by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to embrace fleet modernisation programme.

Operators’ reaction

Chairman of Air Peace Limited, Mr. Allen Onyema said recent rating of Africa’s airlines  as flying poorly maintained aircraft amounted to imbalance in perception.

He  said the continent’s carriers, especially those in Nigeria, could compete with any airline in the world but were being over-regulated by civil aviation authorities.

According to Onyema, such ratings have had  adverse effect on insurance premiums paid by African airlines.

He said  the negative label is having impact on airline’s  performance and financial resources.

Onyema insisted that  Nigerian airlines were as safe as their counterparts in Europe and America despite the harsh operating environment in the country.

He said: ”I disagree with such safety rating because this is impunity the foreign countries hinge on. They tell you Nigeria is unsafe in order to add more insurance premiums for themselves.

“The NCAA , in fact, is safety -centric maybe because of the accidents of the past. They hound the airlines into doing the right thing. We are over-regulated by the NCAA.”

He said the International Air Transport Association recently rated the continent’s airlines very high in terms of safety and maintenance of fleet.

NCAA ‘s position 

Director-General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Captain Muktar Usman said the authority will consolidate on its oversight duties to improve air safety in 2018.

Speaking  in Lagos, Usman  said the regulator  will ensure implementation of requisite safety programmes by all authorities  to close tap on airlines to do the right thing.

According to him, reports of accidents released in the previous year also helped to deepen safety programmes in the sector.

He said: ”It was through a lot of hard work, training and surveillance, inspections and we want to do more on that this year.

“Last year also, we were able to work very hard in the retention of the Category One . Our pledge this year is that we would continue to sustain whatever certification we have and also to build on the successes we recorded last year”.

IATA’s position 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Sub-Saharan Africa had its best safety performance within the last decade.

IATA said airlines from the region had zero passenger fatalities and zero jet hull losses in its data released for the safety performance of the commercial airline industry.

This was contained in a document signed by IATA’s Director-General, Alexandre de Juniac

He said: “ Sub-Saharan. But we must not rest on this success. Safety is earned every day.

“The lesson from Africa’s improvement is that the global standards like the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) makes the difference.

“African nations should maintain this strong momentum by making IOSA and the IATA Standard Safety Assessment (for those carriers that are not eligible for IOSA) part of their airline certification process.

“Regional governments also need to accelerate the implementation of ICAO’s safety-related standards and recommended practices (SARPS).

African Aircraft Leasing Company / Boeing Initiative 

Investigations reveal that the establishment of an African Aircraft Leasing Company will facilitate cheaper and easier window for Nigerian operators to acquire brand new generation aircraft.

Younger aircraft fleet will not only improve the safety record of Nigerian carriers, but will also reduce the huge cost of offshore aircraft maintenance.

The new leasing company,  according to its Executive Director, Mrs. Tokunbo Fagbemi, will facilitate aircraft leasing for operators.

The firm, she said, also plans to set up an aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) centre ; spares logistics as well as aggregated services solutions centre.

The investment, according to Mrs. Fagbemi, is in partnership with United States-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing Corporation.

Aircraft manufacturer, Boeing investigations reveal is encouraging Nigerian carriers to embrace fleet renewal .

Boeing , through the aircraft leasing company, the first in Africa, will create a robust window for Nigerian operators to access 200 Boeing aircraft in the next 20 years.

Apart from Nigerian operators, other carriers in West and Central Africa are expected to benefit from the leasing company.

These efforts , experts say, will improve Nigerian and African airlines’ safety rating