During my 30 years in journalism, I have been asked numerous times why the news media tend to focus on the negative. “Report the good news for a change,” I have been admonished more than once by friends, relatives, sources and strangers on the street. When I was younger, I’m sure I had a standard reply that involved an eye roll (learned from my father, a career newspaperman) and a snide comment about how no one cares that something worked as it was designed, or that good news versus bad news is like beauty — it resides in the eye of the beholder. What is bad news to one side of an argument is euphoria for the other side (try searching “elections, presidential, U.S., 2012”).
But in the world of aviation, particularly in flight operations, that relativity seldom exists. If a component malfunctions, or a process fails or a human makes an error, the results can be tragic. I was stopped in my tracks a few years ago when I heard someone describe aviation as “low probability, high consequence.” The likelihood of an accident occurring is extremely low, but when one does, people sometimes are killed.
Over the years, I’ve mellowed, and I now see a need to report the good news along with the not-so-good, particularly in aviation safety. When progress is made, it should be highlighted so others can learn and recognize what works and what does not.
Recently, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released its 2013 Safety Report (see InfoScan, p. 52), and amid all the charts and graphs and verbiage about accident rates, safety issues and volcanic activity, there were a few paragraphs and some numbers about Africa. The region accounted for only 5 percent of total accidents, as defined by ICAO, in 2012, but 22 percent of all fatal accidents and 45 percent of all fatalities. Neither of those last two numbers is good news, and the first one is more of function of market size than anything else.
But deeper into the report, there is some positive news that is worth sharing. According to ICAO, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan and Zambia have successfully resolved previously identified, significant safety concerns. Additionally, Mauritania and Sudan have met the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) target of 60 percent effective implementation of safety-related ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices, and “significant improvements” also were noted by the USOAP in Benin and Madagascar.
Much remains to be done in Africa, but progress is being made, and it is up to all stakeholders to continue to aid in the region’s safety development.