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Opinions Wed, 21 Aug 2013

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In ten years: estimated 16,000 deaths by road

In ten years: estimated 16,000 deaths by road, zero death by air

In the last ten years since commercial domestic aviation in Ghana started, there has been zero accident and zero casualty. Compare that to the thousands of people who have died in accidents on our roads over the same period. Over that period, you are probably 16,000 times likely to die travelling by road than travelling by air with either Antrak, CiTylinK or any of the new domestic airlines. The engine fire incident on an Antrak Air flight from Tamale to Accra on Friday attracted all sorts of headlines and commentaries, many of which bordered on either sheer ignorance or pure sensationalism.

First off, I don’t mean to belittle the faith of the passengers on that flight, or any air traveller for that matter, but please understand that the reason why the aircraft landed safely back at the Tamale airport had nothing to do with God or the prayers of the passengers. The fact that there has been zero air transport accident and zero casualty in Ghana over the last ten years compared to thousands of deaths in road accidents has nothing to do with God loving air transport passengers more than road transport passengers. Rather, it is a function of the enforcement of safety rules and regulations by the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the airlines, as well as the training, experience and professionalism of the pilots, engineers and other professionals in the aviation industry (both Ghanaian and expatriate).

Thus, the passengers on board last Friday’s Antrak flight did not “escape death” as reported by some media houses. The passengers on board that flight did not come anywhere near death. Ten out of ten pilots, given the same circumstances and without any other extraneous factors affecting that aircraft, would have done exactly what the Antrak pilot did and would have landed that aircraft safely back at the Tamale airport. In November 2010, a brand new Airbus A380 operated by Qantas of Australia suffered “an uncontained engine failure and made an emergency landing at Singapore Changi Airport. The aircraft had also suffered damage to the nacelle, wing, fuel system, landing gear, flight controls, the controls for engine No.1 and an undetected fire in the left inner wing fuel tank that eventually self-extinguished.” While the causes of the two incidents may be different and the aircraft may be different, what is not different is that all pilots are trained to deal with engine fire during flight.

One of the first few lessons I had during my brief training at the CTK Flight Academy was what a pilot has to do in case of engine fire during flight. For the Cessna 172 aircraft, the pilot is expected to execute the following emergency procedure:

Mixture Control Idle Cut-Off

Fuel Selector Valve Off

Master Switch Off

Cabin Heat and Air Off

Airspeed 100 KIAS

Forced Landing Execute

The emergency procedure followed by the Antrak Air pilot on the ATR 72-500 aircraft would be different from that of the Cessna 172 above, but there is no doubt that the pilot would have strictly followed the ATR’s emergency procedures (a copy of which is always carried in the cockpit) to the letter. And any other Captain (Ghanaian or European) faced with similar circumstances would have done the same.

While we wait for the GCAA to complete the investigations into Friday’s incident, which they launched immediately after the incident happened, it is important to provide some facts about the ATR 72-500 aircraft with registration EC-KUL that was involved in the incident as well as the operators. The aircraft was manufactured in July 2008, which means it is only 5 years old. It is registered by the Spanish Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) and operated for Antrak by Swiftair, an airline based in Madrid, Spain, and operating under the SCAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) standards.

Swiftair:

• Was founded in1986, and has developed into a leading European air cargo and pax operator with a current fleet of 40+ aircraft, including MD 83, Metro III, Embraer 120F, ATR and Boeing 737-300F

• Dedicated to operate aircraft and performing ramp handling, Swiftair’s 20+ years of comprehensive experience includes operations of cargo aircraft for express companies and passengers transportation.

• Is financially stable and has been profitable for the last 10 years, with a turnover in excess of 120M Euros per year.

• The passenger division is currently operating 8 ATR72-500 and -200 series, with a 68y pax configuration, and 4 MD 83 from 150 to 167 seats.

• Swiftair operates worldwide, currently present in areas of operation as Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

• Has long term contracts with major European Charter Brokers, the United Nations, the World Food Program and the Spanish and Swedish Governments, to name a few.

• On interline and ACMI basis, Swiftair has operated for Air Europa, Royal Air Maroc, Jet2, Vueling, AirOne, Air Blue, Jet4you, Air Luxor, Blue Line, Itali Airlines, Air France, and previously for Spanair, Air Comet, Futura, to name a few.

The aircraft EC-KUL is being operated in Ghana with valid Airworthiness Certificate and all other relevant documentation issued by the SCAA and inspected by the GCAA. All the pilots and engineers are licenced by the SCAA and validated by the GCAA. Swiftair operates up to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) standards.

Given all the above information, it is unfair for sections of the media and the public to accuse Antrak Air of being negligent in the selection of aircraft or operator for its flights. We have absolute confidence in the professionalism, experience and safety standards of Swiftair and its pilots, engineers and other professionals involved in operating Antrak’s flights in Ghana. We also have absolute confidence in the GCAA and SCAA to ensure the safety of our passengers. That is why the public should have no fear to continue to travel by air. You are 16,000 times safer travelling by air than travelling by road in Ghana. Thank you.

Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako

Chief Commercial Officer

Antrak Air Ghana Limited

Tel: 0246282030

Email: kwaku@antrakair.com

Columnist: Antwi-Boasiako, Kwaku

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