Out of other modes of transport, air transport remains the number one choice of many travellers who would like to move from one nation to another or travel across continents. Its unique quality in providing safe and very fast transport services to thousands of people daily, mostly the businessmen, by linking them to where there are business opportunities in different locations around the world makes it the most preferable transport mode for international travellers. For instance, in 2016, globally air transport accounted for 3.6 billion passengers which is 48 per cent of the world population. (Source: NCAA Profile Oct. 2014-Oct. 2016)
The role of the aviation industry in the economy of any nation cannot be overemphasized; its enormous contributions to both domestic and international
trade have led to the economic growth and development of many nations in the
world. Besides, it is also a notable source of employment as the aviation industry
includes all airlines, airports, air navigation and other important ground services
that make air transport operations possible; they are all sources of notable employment for unemployed people.
Furthermore, air transport plays an important role in the global economy by enhancing world productivity, and providing links to expand different markets for
companies to operate. These important roles, among others, make air transport
indispensable. Hence, the need to make air transport safer is the fundamental duty of aviation industries and the International Civil Aviation Organization.
However, there are three distinctive factors why air transport is safer than other modes of transport. These factors are easily noticeable in the daily operations of all aviation industries in the world. They are:
2. Security; and
3. Enforcement of Regulations and Procedures.
In the aviation industry safety policy is inevitable. It is the most important issue; the beginning and the end of its daily operations. In fact, meeting the flyer’s expectation is a top priority in the aviation industry. Safety in aviation refers to a
state in which risks associated with air transport are reduced to zero or to the barest minimum. There is no gainsaying that all activities in the aviation industry are embedded in safety policy, no aviation industry will like to take the issue of safety for granted.
For instance, on 18 July 2012, the African Ministerial Meeting on Aviation Safety held in Abuja, Nigeria, was focused on air transport safety, where the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) encouraged all aviation ministers in Africa to endorse and adopt the Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan. This plan is meant to improve safety in aviation industries in all African countries. (Source: https://www.icao.int/Newsroom/Pages/strategic-action-plan-to-improve-aviation-safety-in-Africa.aspx)
Therefore, there is no continent in any part of the world where air transport safety should be taken for granted. It is a top priority in the aviation industry and till now, no other transport mode does it better than the aviation industry.
Furthermore, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has come up
with programmes to maintain regular safety operations in air transport, two of
such are Aviation Safety Implementation Assistance Partnership (ASIAP) which
was established in February 2015 and Safety Fund (SAFE).
The Aviation Safety Assistance Partnership (ASIAP) was created purposely to provide reasonable assistance to different nations in sharing safety information,
giving attention to the most important needs; jointly work with other nations in
assistance activities; support a resource mobilization strategy and agree on outcome indicators. In simple language, ASIAP aims to ensure the safety of operations in the aviation industry.
Safety Fund (SAFE): Is another safety programme under ICAO for aviation industries. SAFE’s priority is to improve air transport safety around the world through gathered fund. There are nations mostly in the developing countries that
have no financial capability to tackle serious safety inadequacies in their aviation
industries. This justifies the reason SAFE was established so as to rescue aviation
industries in such countries through donors and voluntary contributions from different nations.
By and large, air transport safety is a top priority in the aviation industry, therefore, all airlines, aircraft manufacturers, ICAO, IATA and government
regulators in different countries are all in collaboration to avoid any safety
problem that may jeopardize an aircraft’s ability to fly safely.
Adequate security is another notable factor that makes air transport safer than other modes of transport. In aviation, security is the set of measures and resources that are used to prevent any malicious act such as terrorism, robbery, among others, against the smooth operation of air transport. In other words, security in aviation refers to all acts of illicit obstruction against civil aviation. One of the functions of ICAO is to prevent or reduce all unwanted acts of unlawful interference against civil aviation. However, there is a form referred to as Official Report on Acts of Unlawful Interference for all ICAO member states in different languages and as at November 2017, ICAO had 192 members. (Source: Wikipedia)
The form is meant to report any form of attack on air transport operations. This shows how important the issue of security is in the aviation industry. Due to the importance of the aviation industry to a nation’s economy, governments in different countries are also in collaboration with aviation industries to provide adequate security measures for the industry. For instance, the US government established Department of Homeland Security while the department also established Transport Security Authority (TSA) to manage security measures in the aviation industry.
Security against liquids, aerosol and gel materials: Another area of security concern that makes air travel safer is the area where flyers are checked to make sure they are not carrying liquid explosive substances or illegal materials into theaircraft. The use of liquid explosives is now a notable aviation security concern, hence, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has come up with guidelines on security controls for Liquids, Aerosol and Gels (LAGs).
Liquids are non-solid materials and aerosol is a substance usually kept under pressure in a container, which can be released or dispensed as a spray when a button is pressed while gel is also a substance that often looks like jelly. However,
in 2006, a terrorist plot was discovered when the terrorist tried to smuggle an improvised explosive device into an aircraft by carrying dangerous substances that looks like ordinary LAGs i.e. liquid, aerosol and gel. This explains why ICAO in October 2008 provided guidance material to ensure that the security control guidelines for LAGs are implemented harmoniously in all aviation industries in the world. Indeed, security is a serious matter in air transport.
Cyber-security: This is another issue of concern for all relevant stakeholders in the aviation industry. Vital information in the aviation industry needs to be highly protected from any unlawful interference, so as to make air transport safer. However, civil aviation cyber-security refers to measures taken to protect civil aviation information storage in electronic systems against any unauthorized
access or attack by cyber-criminals.
As a matter of fact, civil aviation relies so much on information and
communications technology (ICT) systems for efficient safety and smooth air transport operations, hence, the need to protect confidential information against cyber threats calls for adequate security for the ICT systems in aviation. Furthermore, after the ugly incident of September 11 2001 in the US, all stakeholders in aviation industries have been able to reach an agreement to put strong security measures in place that apparently frustrated the unlawful acts from criminal actors that would have made another big noise in the world.
Nevertheless, in 2013, an Industry High-level Group (IHLG) was created by stakeholders in the aviation industry which include International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); the Airports Council International (ACI); the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO); the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as well as the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace
Industries Association (ICCAIA). It was created purposely as a tool to work for the benefit of all stakeholders on important matters or signify issues of common interest to aviation industries such as aviation cyber-security. The Industry High- level Group (IHLG) is expected to protect civil aviation from any form of cyber threats. Truly speaking, in all modes of transport, air transport is second to none in the area of safety and security.
Enforcement of Regulations and Procedures
The strong enforcement of regulations and procedures by airport authorities is one of the reasons why air transport is safer for flyers. The enforcement of improved regulations and smart procedures, to as well align with ICAO standards, is a notable way for an airline’s growth and sustainability.
It is my personal opinion that, if airports are going to be well positioned to play a
significant role in supporting the aviation sector in the area of safety and security,
a strong enforcement of safety regulations and procedures must not be undermined. The inspection of aircraft worthiness; the pilots, engineers, cabin
staff and crew’s fitness in compliance with relevant regulations and procedures
mostly in respect of alcohol consumption, drug use, crew rest time, carrying out
pre-flight inspection procedure by using the prescribed checklist; entering of defects in the aircraft technical logbook, maintenance with approved techniques,
methods and practice, regularities in maintenance procedures and records, flying
aircrafts before expiration of flight clearance and so on, must not be compromised. Otherwise, increase in the violation of civil aviation regulations and procedures by airlines, pilots, engineers and cabin crew that can jeopardize the safety and smooth operation of air transport will be inevitable.
However, air transport authorities understand the high risk involved in the violation of air transport regulations and procedures. Hence, to ensure compliance, violators can be sanctioned and such sanctions could be strict warning, suspension, fines, outright cancellation of airworthiness certificates, withdrawal of license as well as grounding of aircrafts among others. For instance, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in Australia sanctioned an individual pilot and airline for violating civil aviation regulations and procedures.
The following are examples of recent enforcement decisions by CASA in Australia:
On 12 July 2018, ‘Investigations conducted by CASA revealed that the pilot had knowingly operated an aircraft with major damage following a landing incident. This conduct was in contravention of multiple provisions of the Civil Aviation Act including 20A and 20AA(4). The pilot’s conduct was considered to be more serious in this instance because this was the second recent occasion in which he had been
found deliberately flying an aircraft without satisfying applicable airworthiness requirements. Being satisfied that the pilot had failed to properly discharge his duties as a pilot and was not therefore, a fit and proper person to be the holder of a PPL, a delegate of CASA decided to cancel the pilot’s PPL pursuant to regulation 269 of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988.’
Note: PPL means Private Pilot License-Aeroplane. This means the license to operate private aircraft was cancelled.
On 21 March 2018, ‘Investigations conducted by CASA in the wake of a fatal accident in 2017 revealed that the conduct of the accident flight by the pilot involved significant and dangerous non-compliance with the aviation legislation including conduct regarded as reckless and/or negligent, contrary to section 20A of the Civil Aviation Act and regulation 282(4) of the Civil Aviation Regulations. Being satisfied that the pilot had failed to properly discharge his duties as a pilot and was not, therefore, a fit and proper person to be the holder of a PPL or a CPL, a delegate of CASA decided to cancel the pilot’s PPL and CPL pursuant to regulation 269 of the Civil Aviation Regulations.’
Note: PPL means Private Pilot License-Aeroplane CPL means Commercial Pilot License-Aeroplane. It means the pilot’s 2 licenses to operate both private and commercial aircrafts were cancelled.
On 30 June 2017, ‘An investigation into the circumstances surrounding a fatal crash of an R44 helicopter near Cape Tribulation in North Queensland in April 2016 revealed that the pilot had contravened a number of provisions of the aviation legislation. This included flying after dark without an appropriate rating, flying without a valid medical certificate and engaging in reckless operation of an aircraft. The pilot’s PPL-H was cancelled under the provisions of sub regulation 269(1) of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988.’
Note: PPL-H means Private Pilot License-Helicopter. It means its license to operate private helicopter was cancelled.
Furthermore, my observation reveals that, failure of airport authorities to enforce regulations and procedures that will ensure high rate of compliance of all parties concerned in air transport industries may also increase the flyers’ right abuse. It is worthy to note that many flyers have suffered their worst right abuse in the hands of airline operators probably due to the lack of regulation of air transport industries on the issue of consumer protection or poor enforcement of such regulations, for instance, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. These two airlines cheated their passengers worldwide between 2004 and 2006 with hidden charges. When it was discovered by US regulatory authorities, the airlines refunded all its cheated passengers in the US and Europe but refused to refund the over 300,000 Nigerian passengers who suffered the same hidden charges on the grounds that Nigeria had no consumer protection law that they violated. In fact, they argued that even Aviation Act 2006 was not in place. (Source: NCAA Regulatory Profile)
Having gone through the above paragraphs, I hope you will also agree with me that air transport is safer than other modes of transport.