by Thabani Mthiyane

FUELED BY INNOVATION

Achieving total safety within our continental airspace

Fueled by innovation .jpg

The aviation industry offers one of the safest ways to travel, and one of the safest workplaces. However, aviation accidents garner more than their fair share of media coverage. That may be understandable given the nature of the work, but it also imposes a huge onus on everyone involved in the aviation industry to focus relentlessly on safety, to move from talking about and researching safety to integrating it into the way we do business as an aviation industry.

Air Traffic Navigation Servicecs (ATNS) CEO Thabani Mthiyane says research has shown that one of the biggest contributors to aviation incidents and accidents is the human factor: up to 75% of all accidents and incidents within aviation can and may be linked to human error. “That fact has led to the development of a discipline within aviation relating to how humans perform within aviation and, more importantly, how to improve their performance,” argues Mthiyane.

When the study of human factors in air traffic control began, it focused on equipment and workplace design. These remain important, of course, but a more integrated and sophisticated approach is required. A key development in this area has been the development of simulation programmes that allow controllers to build up their knowledge and experience in a safe situation, and also to permit the gathering of data that will influence technology and process design in the future. Another has been the growing focus on seeing aviation not as a set of distinct parts, but as a complex social-technical system.

Thus, in the context of air traffic control, there has been a very useful focus on how the flight deck interacts with the air traffic control. Mthiyane says aviation is a highly technical field, whether one is talking about the engines that power the aircraft, the materials and techniques to build them, the comfort and safety of passengers inside the cabin and, of course, the management of an airspace. “All of these disciplines rely on bright young minds with the right skills to take them forward. We rely on all our stakeholders, academia, research institutions, the media to name but a few, to provide much of the research that fuels innovation,” Mthiyane states.

Innovation as the catalyst for African aviation

Much has been said and written about the African Renaissance. Having been a basket case, the continent is now being positioned as a growth frontier and an attractive destination for investment. Of course, there are dangers in this new way of seeing Africa, because it could still relegate the continent to the status of being a rich resource to be exploited, with the profits travelling offshore. One of the ways we can prevent this from happening is by building strong regional economies able to compete with Eastern and Western investors.

Mthiyane maintains that the aviation industry has a key role to play in helping to promote the creation of these regional networks of trade and understanding. “Those of us involved in aviation in Africa should thus  see ourselves as involved in something that is much larger than the profits of our individual companies—we are helping to enable the emergence of Africa as an economic powerhouse. In that context, the imperative to innovate becomes even more pressing. The better our aviation network is, the more use it is to the African economies it serves, and the more they will use us: a true virtuous cycle, in other words!”

In conclusion, Mthiyane pronounces that while we can benefit from the innovations generated by the aviation industry globally, we also need to work together to create African solutions to Africa’s problems. “Some of these challenges include getting the right kind of infrastructure and technology in place, and developing a sustainable bio-fuels industry, for instance, to supply our industry—all of which has the potential to create much-needed jobs and build Africa’s wealth. If we do it right, that is."

 

This article appears courtesy of ATNS CEO, Thabani Mthiyane, as part of the OR

Tambo Centenary Celebrations and October Transport Month 2017

 

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