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Plane Crash in Angola Highlights Poor African Air Safety Record


The death of five people in an aircraft crash in northern Angola has refocused attention on Africa's poor aviation safety record. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg.

Rescuers have retrieved the flight data recorder from the Angolan Airlines 737 carrying 79 passengers that crashed on landing at M'banza Congo about 300 kilometers north of the capital Luanda Thursday. Reports say the flight recorder, which will be central to the official investigation into the accident, has been sent to Luanda.

Reports say the aircraft struck a small house next to the runway as it was coming in for a landing, and the aircraft's landing gear then appeared to give way on touch down. The craft broke in two with the fuselage and front section ending up fifty meter apart from each other.

The M'banza Congo airport has no air traffic control tower.

The crash occurred within hours of the European Union announcing it had blacklisted Angolan Airlines because of safety issues and banned the airline from flying to European countries. The decision follows an earlier ban on 62 other African airlines because of poor safety.

Africa has the worst flight safety record in the world. It is a statistic that led directly to the African Union this week establishing the Africa Civil Aviation Authority (AFRO-CAA).

In opening the new organization's headquarters in Windhoek Thursday, Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula noted the statistics were troubling African leaders and said that African's should not wait for countries beyond the continent to compel adherence to safety standards.

The AFRO-CAA will establish and police standards for registration of airlines and aircraft maintenance. It will do the same for pilot training, examination and licensing.

In time it is hoped the organization will set up technical and flight training facilities. At present Libya, Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa represent each of their regions at AFRO-CAA. It will be their task to coordinate the work of the authority with other countries in their regions. They were chosen because they account for 80 percent of the air traffic on the continent. The new agency is modeled on the Aviation Safety Agency of the European Union.