A helicopter Bell 206 crashed on Thursday 28, August 2020 in Lagos, killing two of the passengers on board. This year, Africa’s aviation sector has been dogged by fatal and near-fatal incidents including crashes and runway incidences. The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 an aviation nightmare for many.
The pandemic’s devastating effect on air travel represents the biggest strategic shock and logistics burden to the global aviation system since international air travel began.
While it is first and foremost a human tragedy that has impacted trade, jobs, travel, investment,tourism, economy, sports, food security, to mention a few. A critical component of air travel is the safety and maintenance of aircraft.
The International Air Transport Association’s latest projection shows that 2020 passenger revenues could fall by $252 billion. Revenues in major travel destinations in Africa have tanked by 80-90% with over $200million losses recorded in the second quarter of 2020.
While many are kept in the airports, due to constraints of space, for instance thousands of aircrafts are parked in open deserts. The Arizona desert has about 500 aircrafts in storage. Technicians must maintain periodic checks because servicing is critical for idling engines.
Like parked vehicles, aircraft engines need around-the-clock maintenance – from regular engine run, lubrication, engine parameter checks, to covering drains among others. Running the engine burns away water that might have been trapped in oiled parts of the aircraft. Also, the interior requires cleaning. Checking each plane takes between 4-5hours.
Inclement weather may propel very strong wind and thunderstorms that are able to shift aircraft, thereby causing accidents and costly damage. They will have to be supported with stabiliser-weights, tactically placed in order to keep them in check and not disrupt the centre of gravity of the aircraft.
If vaccines are tested and disseminated in good time, sparring possibilities of a second-wave of the coronavirus outbreaks, projections suggest it is unlikely to recover to pre-covid realities until 2022.
With the easing of lockdowns, many airports applying up-to-date disinfection technologies like intelligent sterilisation robots, and health checks, the pandemic has changed the way we travel. We should expect fewer flight delays and cancellations, increase in bag fees.
Yet with the reopening of airports, international travel is expected to remain sluggish, flights are likely to be more affordable with fewer nonstop flights and destinations.
In spite of the record number of flight mishaps across Africa, operators trying to mitigate losses will have to restore customer confidence, and create a balance between boosting revenues, increasing traffic while keeping everyone safe.
It is also pertinent to pause and reflect on the future of post-pandemic travel; when will it be totally safe to travel?
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