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African Aviation


Blame game begins for Congo crash

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Wolfgnag H. Thome  Apr 18, 2008

(eTN) - Information received from a foreign staff dealing with logistics and handling at Goma’s airport has now put a fair share of the blame on the Kinshasa regime.

In the first instance, the runway of Goma was substantially shortened some years ago, when a nearby volcano erupted and covered part of the runway with lava. In spite of regular pleas by airlines, handling staff, management of the airport and the provincial government, the regime in Kinshasa did not see it fit to attend to the problem and allocate funds to carry out repairs on the airport.

Different sources blame the regime’s general handling of Eastern Congo and its problems on the delay, as it is an open secret in the region that Kinshasa constantly holds a grudge against the East of the country, where it allows militias opposed to neighbors Uganda and Rwanda to roam freely while relentlessly pursuing other groups aimed at protecting ethnic Tutsi.

Faced with the continued prospect of Eastern Congo wanting to break away from Kinshasa, unlikely as this presently sounds, the Kinshasa regime loathes the idea to invest any money into the infrastructure of Eastern Congo, much like the Khartoum government failed to invest in the Southern Sudan during the freedom struggle years.

In the second instance, aviation safety oversight seems sadly absent in Congo and the regulatory staff is often accused to put bribes before the lives of passengers and crew, when clearing airlines to continue flying in the face of evidence that they have no capacity to maintain aircraft and train crew even to minimum standards, leave alone internationally recommended and accepted levels.

The airline itself is to be blamed over the alleged engine failure on take-off, but this will be established once maintenance records and evidence from the scene have been analyzed. The pilot in command too bears responsibility for taking off across an allegedly partly water logged runway and failing to leave any safe margins for either having to abandon take off or being able to get safely airborne after reaching rotation speed.

Hewa Bora Airlines has now also been banned from flying to Europe after the special dispensation was withdrawn by the EU, leaving no indigenous Congolese airline able to fly to Europe. However, African countries continue to allow Congolese carrier to fly into their territory in open disregard of actions taken by competent authorities elsewhere, showing some false solidarity when sound and decisive action would be the best cause of action to force compliance if not voluntarily put into place by Congolese regulators.

Whatever the final outcome of this accident investigation, flying in Congo, while the main means for travel across the sprawling jungle nation in the absence of decent road and rail links to all corners of the country, remains a dangerous proposition at best and a deadly one at worst. Meanwhile there is little hope of Congo’s government cleaning up their act even after dozens of air accident over the past decade. Calls for a total ban on international acceptance of Congo’s airlines have grown louder since the latest crash and airline observers are keenly waiting how the International Civil Aviation Organization will be reacting from here on.

Blame game begins for Congo crash
Image via AP Photo/Lauren Vopni



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