By Robin Hind
Surely it is not possible, you will be entitled to say, to make assumptions and generalisations about anything as large as a continent, let alone a nation, or even a group of people?
Well, it is possible to generalise in some ways, and it can be said that most who live in France speak French. The arguments against generalisations will always be that there is a wide spectrum of capabilities and behaviour in any group, and that it is improper to try to match the best against the worst.
However, there may be sets of circumstances by which, using a limited number of parameters which are carefully defined and reproducible, to shown that one group can have entirely different capabilities from others.
An example is the airline safety. The aim of the endeavour, safety, is an absolute, and will not be debated. The training and maintenance protocols used in operating aircraft are close to universal, and are therefore applicable across large domains, even domains as large as a continent. The number of flights is large and highly statistically significant.
Therefore, given the limited number of variables permitted, aircraft safety should be equivalent throughout the world. Is this the case?
In fact it is far from the case as is demonstrated by the accident statistics for 2009, recently released by The Flight Safety Foundation, which listed 757 airline fatalities. The overall number of fatalities was below average, although the number of accidents was on average. Five out of 30 airliners involved in fatalities were on the European Union “Black List”
However, what is of concern is that the accidents in Africa reflected a condemnable and ongoing adverse trend. About three percent of all world aircraft departures occur in Africa, but thirty percent of all (worldwide!) airline fatalities occurred in Africa.
Naturally, there are airlines flying in Africa with excellent service and safety records, such as Ethiopian and South African. However what is of concern is that
airlines are not independent of the countries over which and into which they fly. Some, such as Nigeria, have demonstrated appalling air traffic control and other lapses of safety on the ground.
One can therefore say, with statistical assurance, that one's chances of being killed whilst flying by airline in Africa are 10 times those of the other parts of the world. Light aircraft, unscheduled flights, and "occasional airlines" have demonstrated deficient safety far worse, even, that the statistics recorded above.