Air transport forms one of the fundamental and yet complicated transport operations in the world. It is most appreciated as a crucial mode of transporting persons and goods across continents and regions, mobilizing huge sums of revenue for industry operators including revenues for countries for national development. Ghana’s aviation industry stands resilient and gained high reputation across the world since independence. Nonetheless, this enviable status is sometimes challenged by unfortunate accidents and serious incidents. Since 2012, Ghana has recorded four (4) major aircraft accidents and numerous serious incidents, involving deaths of persons and damaged to property. His Excellency’s vision of making Ghana the aviation hub of West Africa may remain a dream if the infrastructure and appropriate institutions are not established in the aviation industry to deal with relevant issues in line with national obligations and international standards.
Section 25 of the Ghana Civil Aviation (Amendment) Act, 2019, Act 985 mandated the Minister of Aviation to be responsible for the investigation of aircraft accidents and serious incidents arising out of or in the course of air navigation that occurs in or over the Republic and Accra Flight Information Region. In exercising the power conferred on the Minister as in Section 25 and in consultation with major stakeholders in the Aviation Industry, the Minister for Aviation by Ministerial Directive established an Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) on 27th March, 2019, as an Administrative Unit for the conduct of investigation into aircraft accidents and serious incidents.
This Unit continued to function until research of international best practices and references to ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) indicated the need to establish a more prudent and consolidated autonomous body to man the Accident Investigation Bureau. A deeper comprehension of Report of the ICAO Validated Coordinated Mission (ICVM) on Ghana from 26th March to 3rd April 2019 strongly affirmed the position of establishing an independent institution to conduct investigations into aircraft accidents and incidents when they occur. It was realised that ad-hoc investigation teams are not only expensive in terms of operations but are unable to sustain institutional memory for future investigations, policy enforcements and efficiency in terms of meeting international obligations. Subsequently, countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Singapore, Qatar, Netherlands, United States of America among others have already established autonomous aircraft accident investigation bodies.
Even though the Bureau strived to exist and function effectively, it was incapacitated as indicated by ICAO provisions which expect it to function independently and also produce results acceptable by international standards and practices. Generally, findings of the non-autonomous bodies, not conforming to ICAO requirements may be rejected by stakeholders or implemented leisurely. The attitude may be that of perceived biases or interfered investigations and doctored findings. Thus, this affected the credibility of the existing Unit created under the Ministry and put Ghana in a position well behind its peers.
Article 26 of the Chicago Convention requires every State in which an aviation accident occurs to investigate the event. Sequel to this convention, ICAO Annex 13 requires that the investigation must be professionally done and devoid of any interferences and biases. The capacity for the investigatory body must not only be legal, but also well structured, resourced and autonomous in its operations and findings. Additionally, in 2019, when ICAO conducted a Validation Mission to test Ghana’s level of Effective Implementation (EI) of ICAO SARPs, Ghana obtained an EI score of 89.89 percent. This was an improvement over 2006 assessment when Ghana scored 65.54 percent. Despite this great achievement, the mission recommended the Bureau to be given an autonomous status. The next Audit may be 2021 and the observation and remarks of Ghana may be bleak if an autonomous body for aircraft accident and incident investigations is not established as previously recommended.
On 6th July, 2020, His Excellency the President granted executive approval for the laying in Parliament of the Aircraft Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau Bill, 2020, pursuant to which an autonomous Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau shall be established as an institution for the conduct of investigation into aircraft accidents and incidents in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs)
His Excellency, The President of the Republic of Ghana, established the Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation and Prevention Bureau (Bureau) to investigate, prevent, regulate and oversee the management of aircraft accidents and incidents that occur in Ghana through the Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation and Prevention Bureau Act, 2020 (Act 1028) which was passed by parliament and assented to by the President on 6th October, 2020.