Concerns about safety of African charter flights...

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Sep 10th, 2004, 10:15 PM
  #1
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Concerns about safety of African charter flights...

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=18126

I likely flew on this very same plane just three months ago during one of my three transfers between Lusaka - Jeki - Mfuwe - Lusaka. Personally, I am very alarmed that charter flights from foreign leased planes are allowed to fly in Zambia, yet they are not allowed to be serviced in Zambia.

In this article on www.allafrica.com, it is reported that there was a report of leaking oil before the flight ever even took off. It's easy to second guess, but I would think this would be reason enough to ground the plane.

http://allafrica.com/stories/200409100162.html

I just don't think it is very likely that any foreign owned charter flights would see much opportunity to be sent back to South Africa in Zambia's very limited peak season of August - October.

Airwaves Airlink is seemingly an excellent company, and if this is the plane that I flew on, it was brand new, with only 100 flying hours when I was on it three months ago. Even my wife, that is fearful of small planes, enjoyed the flight and by the second and third flight was fearless after having such a comfortable first transfer.

I was considering visiting the Lower Zambezi NP on my next visit, but if it involves a light air transfer, I would probably pass for now. I have e-mailed Airwaves Airlinks with my concerns and hopefully they are responsible enough to answer the questions and concerns of a past customer. All I can think of is "That could have been my wife and I aboard that plane." Forget about me, but to be responsible for somebody else's unnecessary death really bothers me.

I will definitely play 20 questions with whatever light air charter company that I use in the future, although I know this is not commonplace, but with the rules and regulations as they are, with no local maintenance allowed, I am very concerned. I wonder if the rules are the same for Botswana and Namibia?

Regarding Lower Zambezi NP, Zambia, it is possible at many camps for a combo road/river transfer to the lodges, but this would likely require an overnight in Lusaka in order to get an early start.
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Sep 11th, 2004, 07:10 AM
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I am pleased that the big boss at Airwaves Airlink promptly answered my e-mail and addressed all of my concerns. Here is a copy of the e-mail:

Dear (Rocco),

We appreciate your concern regarding this tragic accident and the cause thereof. Just so that you are 100% in the picture we would like to answer your concerns.

This particular aircraft is registered in and owned by a South African Company and under Civil Aviation regulations only an approved South African maintenance organisation is allowed to maintain the plane and this was the responsibility of such an organisation based out of Nelspruit. A major service had in fact just been carried out on the plane and the requirement for regular scheduled maintenance on all aircraft is highly regulated. A South African registered aircraft cannot by law fly for more then 100 hours without it being returned to the AMO for a major check. At the time of the accident KOX had only flown +/- 35 hours since the major.

Due to the upsurge in tourism in Zambia Airwaves Airlink decided to lease in on a temporary basis another aircraft to help out with the demand for air services. Correct procedures were followed and the Zambian DCA inspected the aircraft, technical records and other documents of ZS-KOX, before approving the lease application. The lease arrangement was on an ACMI basis which means Lessor to provide: Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, Insurance. Airwaves involvement was simply to produce the charter work.

What exactly happened at Livingstone to make the aircraft attempt a forced landing is still being investigated presently by the Insurance Company and the Zambian and South African Civil Aviation Authorities. Any comments at this stage by any party could only be speculation - which includes the reported oil leak.

In ending, we must ensure you that as an aviation Company Airwaves Airlink puts safety as a priority and we do our best to ensure that all the aircraft we use are safe. However, under our license conditions we are only allowed to fly the aircraft, not maintain them.

Best regards.
Theo J Goveia
Director - Airwaves Airlink.
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Sep 11th, 2004, 10:00 AM
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Very sad. But just for the record, it is still far safer to be in the air over Africa, than on the road. I know that some people just feel safer on the ground, but long distance road transfers in Africa are best avoided.

And of course if we calculated the risk of a serious accident every time we got into our cars at home, there would probably be fewer clogged freeways here.
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Sep 11th, 2004, 08:25 PM
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Tashak,

You are right. Ultimately, I would much rather take my chances in the African skies than on the African roads, especially outside of South Africa.

However, I am still perplexed about the rule preventing the local maintenance of foreign owned planes. If they cannot be maintained in Zambia, my opinion is that they should not be flying in Zambia.
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Sep 11th, 2004, 09:10 PM
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Yes, it is strange. Especially when the planes must be maintained every hundred hours. Makes you wonder about the decision to use the plane if there was ANY evidence of a problem. We can only hope that this terrible experience becomes a lesson to anyone who begins to take the safety of their planes to casually... and about the wisdom of chartering planes that can't be serviced locally.
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Oct 7th, 2004, 04:49 PM
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Well, I won't take all the credit, but maybe my e-mail to Airwaves Airlink did provide a little motivation! (Can I run for office in Zambia and receive complimentary stays at the game lodges of my choice?!)

http://allafrica.com/stories/200410060154.html
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