The crash two days ago of a LAM – Mozambique Airlines Embraer E190, which has cost the lives of 27 passengers and 6 crew, has cast fresh doubts over Africa’s aviation safety record, which remains at the bottom of the scale in global comparison with the worst air accident ratio of any continent. The aircraft, production number 581 and delivered by Embraer to LAM in November 2012, was registered as C9-EMC by the Mozambique Civil Aviation Authority. According to information sourced, the aircraft had during the past 12 months flown just over 2.900 hours with just under 1.900 flight cycles. The jet was powered by two General Electric CF34-10E engines which are widely used on this regional aircraft type.
The aircraft was performing flight number 470 from Maputo /Mozambique to Luanda / Angola and the last reported contact took place at 11.30 hrs GMT when the crew reported heavy rain in the area they were located at the time. There was according to information received no further indication of anything wrong with the aircraft until contact with the jet was eventually lost soon afterwards in the border area between Botswana and Namibia.
Most accidents in Africa were in the past blamed on the use of aged, often Soviet era turboprop or jet aircraft, attributed to poor pilot training and poor maintenance. Newer, state of the art aircraft have only recently made a wider entry into the continents aircraft registers, mainly driven by Africa’s leading carrier which have renewed and expanded their fleets in recent years and in the tow of which other airlines too started to phase out older aircraft. IATA’s IOSA audits, short for IATA Operational Safety Audit, have been adopted by the leading airlines in Africa but many carriers are still in the process of being audited, in other words still in the stage of adopting the standards and moving towards full compliance. LAM, according to the IATA listings for African airlines, however does hold IOSA certification.
The crash of a relatively new aircraft will therefore be investigated, though under the lead of the Namibian aviation authorities – in charge because the crash happened in their territory – with close assistance from Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, which so far has an excellent safety record for their range of different turboprop and jet aircraft. Embraer reportedly have offered their full cooperation and technical support to the air accident investigation team which has been put into place by the Namibian Ministry of Work, Transport and Communications.
While the weather was described as poor, it is only the now unfolding air crash investigation which can shed light on the cause of the accident and the search is underway for the aircraft’s voice and data recorder, which can provide clues as to any potential causes of the crash.
Condolences are extended to all the families and friends of the passengers and crews on board of LAM flight 470.