By Dominick Andoh
Ghana’s Parliament is expected to approve a bill brought under a Certificate of Urgency by the Aviation Ministry for the establishment of an Accident Investigation Bureau that will be mandated to investigate all aviation incidents and accidents in the country, in line with international best practices.
The setting up of the specialised agency will prevent the current situation where the aviation industry regulator, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), is heavily involved in investigating incidents and accidents involving operators that it regulates.
For instance, the regulator was key in investigating the Allied Air accident in 2012, the Antrak Air incident in 2013, and the Starbow Airlines incident in 2017.
Aside curing the conflict of interest in the current investigative process, establishing an independent accident investigation body was one of the key recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) after a recent assessment and is in line with best practice for regulators not to investigate such incidents themselves.
The bureau, when established, will also be responsible for investigating aircraft incidents and accidents in the oceanic region within the Accra Flight Information Region.
For instance, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the organisation responsible for investigating civil aviation incidents and accidents in the United States.
In civil aviation, an incident is an occurrence, other than an accident, which affects or could affect the safety of flight operations, whereas an accident is an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and the time when all such persons have disembarked—and in which any person suffers death or serious injury and is hospitalised for more than 48 hours.
The work of the Accident Investigation Bureau will be imperative in reducing the annual accident costs attributed to general aviation in Ghana and the West Africa sub-region.
In recent times there have been major initiatives, such as infrastructural projects and systems enhancements, which combined with this legislation are gradually positioning the country at the heart of civil aviation in the sub-region.
Funding for Accident Investigation Bureau
The new accident investigation body is to receive 1.5 percent of the Airport Passenger Service Charge (APSC), a levy which forms part of the cost of domestic and international air tickets.
The Ghana Airports Company, which receives the revenue from the APSC, is now required to give 1.5 percent to the new agency.
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