Another Antonov crash in Congo kills at least 19


(eTN) – The series of air accidents in Congo simply does not seem to end, when yet another Soviet-era Antonov crashed yesterday in Point Noire, Congo, reportedly killing a crew of four, five passengers, and 10 people on the ground as the plane hit a residential area. The plane was operated by Trans Air Congo airline, and crashed near the mayor’s office, injuring at least 14 in addition to those who have died.

Congo has one of the world’s worst records with aviation accidents and is largely responsible for the poor continental rating by ICAO in regard of aviation safety. Over the past years, as readers will recall, a chain of accidents was reported here in the Congo, involving passenger and cargo aircraft, the latter often in fact also offering seats – allegations are that such passengers often in fact have no seats and have to squat on the floor amid loaded cargo – to improve the profitability of flights and make a quick buck.

Aviation oversight, in spite of the periodic government statements following such disasters, has remained patchy at best, and none of the promised fundamental overhauls has taken place, leaving “flying coffins,” as the Soviet-era planes are often dubbed in Congo and other countries in Africa, in operation. Prosecutions of culprits or companies being shut down following accidents, is sadly NOT the norm in Congo, one of the reasons why the European Union has blacklisted ALL Congolese airlines from flying into their airspace.

While several more enlightened [in terms of aviation safety and oversight] African countries have banned operations of old Antonovs and Iljushins to and from their territory, as well as overflights, mainly due to the high rates of accidents such stone-age planes suffer from, others like Congo have not. Maintenance oversight, a crucial element in keeping aircraft airworthy is often neglected by the aviation regulators, and allegations of corrupt practices emerge time and again, especially after accidents.

Undoubtedly, calls will again emerge now to finally and completely ban such aircraft from the African skies, but more likely than not, economic and political influence peddling will again succeed at the expense of yet more African lives to be lost in the future.

Condolences are expressed to the families and friends of those who perished in the crash.