Monday, June 09, 2014

South Africa: Human error blamed for aviation accidents

Pretoria - Human error has proved to be the main contributor towards aviation accidents, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said on Monday.

Speaking at the opening of the 5-day African Aerospace Medicine Conference in Midrand, Minister Peters said: “Although aircraft may fail occasionally, it is the human factor that has proved to be the major cause of aviation accidents."

According to Minister Peters, human error accounts for more than 70% of aviation accidents.

“Medical incapacity, whether physiological or psychological, has also claimed a fair share of past aviation tragedies.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of a healthy aviation workforce whose state of health is at the center of their responsibility to ensure that every departure is as safe as the subsequent landing,” she said.

SA’s approach to develop aviation safety

Minister Peters said South Africa has adopted a multi-sector collaboration approach to the development of aviation safety which includes aviation medicine training.

“We also view collaboration with the industry as an important aspect of our success formula in that aviation safety is not a responsibility of government alone.

“If we continue to harness our knowledge and experiences; our standards will soon be aligned; and our collective aviation safety record will continue to improve,” she said.

In April this year, Minister Peters unveiled a multi-entity aviation medicine training and research partnership program, initiated by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and the Defence Force’s Institute for Aviation Medicine and four universities.

More passengers use air travel

Last December, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) revealed that around 3.1 billion passengers made use of air travel in 2013. This number is expected to top 6.4 billion by 2030.

“It is clear that the growth of modern economies has been attributed to the critical role aviation plays globally.

“Global connectivity which is enabled by aviation has a very powerful role to play in integrating the 54 national economies of Africa and connecting them to the world,” she said.

Communicable disease in aviation

Minister Peters told delegates that as much as aviation is a critical economic and socio-economic catalyst that creates and sustains jobs and livelihoods; they have to remain mindful that flights and passengers can still carry communicable diseases to opposite ends of the world in less than 24 hours.

“As countries and regions, we need to always be ready to deal with this reality. Let us not forget the rapid spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic which caught many states by surprise.

“In terms of SARS, in particular, the primary casualty was the aviation sector, resulting in major ‘reduction in air travel’. We need to strengthen all ICAO initiatives related to the prevention of the spreading of communicable diseases.

“If we don’t do that, the aviation sector will suffer severe consequences. So will the many other sectors that depend on the aviation sector,” she said.

Director of Civil Aviation, Poppy Khoza, said the health and well-being of pilots and aircrew is vital to a sustained and flourishing aviation industry.

She also emphasized a great need for continued collaboration in relation to containing any possible outbreak of communicable diseases.

“One of the complicated aspects of aviation is the possible spread of communicable diseases through air travel due to the advancement of technology, which makes it possible for passengers and flights to circumnavigate the globe in less than 24 hours through ultra-long haul flights,” she said.

Conference Objectives

The objective of the conference is to encourage the African continent to promote Aerospace Medicine within their jurisdictions and to share relevant information.

It also aims to improve the harmonization of ICAO’s medical standards and recommended practices as applied in various regions all over the globe.

The gathering will also focus on medical certification of aviation personnel (pilots, air traffic controllers and cabin crew), air ambulances, cabin and passenger health issues, public health issues in aviation and medical aspects of aircraft accidents. 


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