Namibia improves air safety record

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Figures on aircraft accidents and incidents that were recorded in Namibia over the first six months of the year indicate that this has been the safest first half of the year for the country’s aviation sector in at least five years.

Figures released by the Ministry of Works and Transport this week show that from January to the end of June this year, 13 aircraft occurrences – these are both accidents and less serious incidents that could nevertheless affect the safety of a flight – were recorded in Namibia.

With no lives lost in any of these occurrences, this makes it the safest first half of the year for Namibian aviation since at least 2005.

In the first half of 2005, two fatal aircraft accidents claimed three lives in Namibia. A total of 37 aircraft accidents and incidents were recorded in the country in that period.

In the first half of 2006, 34 aircraft accidents and incidents were recorded in Namibia, with two of these accidents claiming two lives. The number of aircraft occurrences rose to 51 in the first half of 2007, with four people killed in two fatal accidents in that period.

The first half of 2008 was the deadliest first six months of a year for Namibian aviation since at least 2005. Although only nine accidents and incidents were recorded in that period, two of these were fatal accidents in which seven people lost their lives.

According to the Ministry, the drop in accident figures in the period from January to June 2009 can be attributed to measures implemented by the Directorate of Civil Aviation and the Directorate of Aircraft Accident Investigations in the Ministry of Works and Transport and also to action that has been taken by aircraft operators and aircraft maintenance organizations.

“Aircraft operators and maintenance companies have improved discipline and put in place more checks and balances, as well as proper supervision,” Ministry spokesperson Julius Ngweda remarked in a statement.

Ngweda added that assistance from International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) experts has been playing a major role in correcting serious safety deficiencies such as incorrect air operator certificates and inadequate cockpit checklists and operation manuals.

ICAO airworthiness experts have also improved maintenance practices and have been dealing with aircraft that were operating without airworthiness certificates, Ngweda stated.

All aircraft, operators, and maintenance organizations in Namibia are being inspected by an ICAO team as part of a formal audit program, while a flight crew licensing audit program has also been under way since shortly after an ICAO team arrived in Namibia in December last year, Ngweda said.

He added that while the Directorate of Civil Aviation has recently recruited three additional inspectors, it remains seriously understaffed.

There are more than 550 registered aircraft – ranging in size from small micro-light aircraft to an Airbus A340 passenger jet – in Namibia that are required to be inspected once a year, according to Ngweda.

Forty maintenance organizations and 24 commercial operators are also inspected annually.