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AviAssist Foundation and AviaDev. Proudly working together to promote aviation safety in Africa

In recent years, huge strides have been made in the field of aviation safety on the African continent. At the upcoming AviaDev event in Kigali this October, Tom Kok, Director, AviAssist will explore the link between safety and route development. Ahead of the event, we caught up with Tom:

JH. 2016 was one of the safest years on record in African aviation. What do you put this success down to?

TK: It was fantastic to see yet another year of great safety performance in Africa. First and foremost, African governments and operators should be complimented on this impressive achievement. But it’s easy to forget that thousands of professionals in Africa work very hard every day to make commercial aviation the safest form of transportation, also in Africa. They do so not because they expect special recognition. They think safety and act in ways that promote safety because they know the aviation industry depends on it, and because it is the right thing to do. Their progress has been inspired and supported by impressive work of institutions such as ICAO and IATA and safety support providers like the US Safe Skies for Africa program, the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Foundation. It was the 2012 Abuja declaration on aviation safety, initiated by IATA, that sparked this leap forward. But we have to work hard to sustain the progress made since the Abuja declaration.

An appreciation of safety standards with new ministers and new members of parliament in transport committees requires a continuous effort from our industry. Sustaining the current rate of safety progress in a growing industry may also require reform of daily allowance systems. In-country safety training opportunities are more likely to be built when the economic incentive to want to train abroad would be removed.

We also have to work hard to drive the non-academic skills in our industry, the 4Cs of 21st Century training: collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. That will equip safety champions better to enlist the aid and support of others for safety – to provide leadership.

New professionals come into the industry and we’ll need them in ever bigger numbers. A slowly but surely warming labour market means that it starts to become somewhat more common for young professionals have a choice of employer or career. This provides our industry with a great safety opportunity to encourage those young professional into our industry by providing them with career path that include safety champion components. It provides opportunities for professional development of new aviation professionals that can make a career in aviation more interesting for them, even if it can’t perhaps always go hand in hand with a salary increase. It’s easy to forget that challenging work, recognition, employee involvement & professional development are important motivators for people to enter or stay in a particular career or industry.

JH: Africa has suffered from a perception issue regarding aviation safety. What is being done to address this?

TK: We feel that too little is done to trumpet progress on aviation safety. An organisation like the Air Transport Action Group does work on that but its focus is on the whole world. By sending Africa’s only safety promotion magazine SafetyFocus, including strategic articles and published by the Foundation, to critical outsiders such as insurance brokers & travel associations around the world, the Foundation tries to play a role there. But what would really be beneficial is an annual African aviation safety marketing campaign by an independent marketing institution. That would be something we’d love to support.

JH. You are supporting AviaDev Africa with a session on safety. How big a role does safety play in the route development process?

TK: Route development traditionally focusses on catchment area characteristics, airport facilities, and price incentives or marketing support that is available. In terms of safety facilities linked to those airport facilities, airlines can source safety facilities data from Aeronautical Information Publications or from information exchange with other operators through AFRAA or IATA. This is mostly relevant for infrastructure such as airport fire trucks or airport back up power facilities. Airlines may choose to do a safety audit, often in a later stage of route development when the route development process is handed over to the operations staff. The role of safety can sometimes become more pronounced when safety issues are seen to have a direct impact on the profitability of a route. At airports where for example managing airport wildlife risks or ground operations safety risks come up on a regular basis, smaller incidents where the damages stay below the insurance excess threshold may directly affect route profitability. We have been working on such topics over the years, with airport wildlife management being a long-established program with the Foundation and a new program on ground operations safety starting up in 2018.

JH. Rwanda has been a big supporter of your work. Tell us some more about the Safety Promotion Centre that is planned.

TK: That is correct. Vision 2020 is a government development program in Rwanda, launched in 2000. It provides a couple of anchor points for the support by Rwanda to our activities there. One of the pillars of Vision 2020 is the ambition to transform Rwanda’s economy into a knowledge-based economy. A crucial part of that is Human Resource Development. Vision 2020 places major emphasis on vocational and technical training in the fields of technology, engineering and management and recognises that, like many other African countries, Rwanda lags behind in professional training, with shortages in the fields of applied and natural sciences. The AviAssist Safety Promotion Centre – Rwanda will aim to make a contribution to building that capacity in the area of aviation safety. The ASPC-Rwanda is an initiative by the Foundation to create East Africa’s leading resource centre for safety promotion. It will support technical skills, address human factors and develop organizational & business skills for the current and next generations of aviation professionals. We are already establishing co-operative relationships with universities and research institutions in Rwanda and beyond to also build capacity on safety performance measurement, safety data collection and analysis & research.

In due time, we hope to be setting up a second ASPC in Zambia for the sub-region around Zambia. A first trial in 2018 on a coaching program for young professionals in ground handling with Zambia’s NAC2000 and Viggo from the Netherlands is scheduled to precede the set-up of the ASPC-Zambia over time.

About the AviAssist Foundation

The AviAssist Foundation champions aviation safety in Africa and is the only independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to that. It provides expert safety guidance and training courses that are not available in the countries or sub-regions where we work and aims to complement the work of ICAO in making states more self-sufficient in imparting safety training.

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