Sat, Oct

Aircraft rescue efforts and aviation insurance

Aviation insurance is crucial for the industry

'You will still need air to breathe while in the skies’ —  Author

In line with the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and International Civil Aviation Organisation  (ICAO)’s regulations to evaluate the State’s readiness to handle emergencies at the airports, the Ghana Airports Company last Saturday held its 2016 mandatory full scale emergency simulation exercise at the Tema Motorway side of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA). 

This exercise was carried out by the Ghana Army, Air Force, Police, NADMO, GCAA, and some other stakeholders. The exercise dubbed ABRONOMA 2016 also had an observation team of foreign experts from ICAO and the Airports Council International (ACI). 

The reaction of the public to the exercise

The exercise, though widely publicised, still took some ‘far-away’ commuters, onlookers and motorists by surprise as it looked real in the sight of the ordinary person. Those who had foreknowledge about it probably forgot. Some others also managed to catch a glimpse of how the event was carried out from afar.

Indeed but for some reasons of meeting certain international standards and the blocking of the Tema Motorway to make way for the exercise, i think it didn’t need such massive publicity in order for it to achieve its full purpose by virtue of the surprise element. 

The first time I personally witnessed a similar exercise was in 2003 or so dubbed ‘Operation Okoree’ and this created a lot of panic as people who saw the event unfolding phoned radio stations obviously to draw the attention of the public to a ‘disaster’! Officers and men of the Rescue and Fire Fighting Service (RFFS) of the then GCAA (prior to the decoupling of the GACL from the GCAA) and other security agencies were in their best element making the exercise look so real. 

Instructively, the reason this particular one generated so much interest is, perhaps, the devastating consequences of aircraft accidents.

The risks associated with air transport

To have an artificial metal bird in the air is not something anybody would want to find himself / herself in, but technology has made this possible, with business, leisure and diplomatic relations driving the patronage of airplane. However, the risks associated with air travel are also very real. 

While on board an aircraft, no matter how new, until it lands at its destination, there is always some quiet discomfort. Indeed though these aircraft are manufactured in the very advanced countries, some of the worst air crashes also happen in the air spaces of these countries. The point here is that technology might have advanced with full proof safety but the fact still remains that in life anything can happen!

Recent aircraft accidents

Recent news about plane crashes both locally and internationally are becoming a source of worry not just to the business community as a whole but also its effects on the families of victims of these crashes. A momentous recall is made of the recent Russian plane crash, not forgetting the Tamale crash in late 2015, which could have resulted in a terrible accident involving lives and property. Clearly, but for the usual professional and diligent character of our Ghanaian pilots and flying officers, the worst could have happened in Tamale that fateful Tuesday morning. 

The Russian Plane Crash

Only a few months ago, there was a Russian plane crash which killed several persons on board. Similarly, memories about that the rather infamous Malaysian plane which vanished an hour after taking off with 239 persons on board some two years ago, are still somehow fresh in our minds. 

It was an accident with neither survivors nor traces of the aircraft, despite the intense search by some 26 countries led by Australia. Instructively, experts have described this as the biggest aviation mystery, since a cause was yet to be fully established. 

All these notwithstanding, people should not be so consumed to want to discontinue travelling by air. I say this with a cue from the fact that “even after a motor accident, victims would still have to be transported in another motor vehicle to get their treatment.” What should matter to air travelers is the existence of Aviation Insurance to provide adequate compensation to themselves and their families, just in case.

 Why Aviation Insurance

Aviation insurance is really needed because it provides cover for hull losses as well as liability for passenger injuries, including environmental and third-party damage caused by aircraft accidents. This is also extended to cover death of passengers and crew.

Types of Aviation Insurance

Technically, Aviation insurance is divided into several covers. This is to facilitate effective handling of claims arising thereon. Generally, for aviation insurance, we have the Public Liability Insurance, which is typically a third party liability, providing cover for aircraft owners against damage caused by their aircraft to third party properties like houses, cars, crops, airport facilities and aircraft collision. The cover usually does not extend to the insured aircraft itself and its injured passengers. After an accident the insurer would provide compensation packages for victims for their losses. Public liability insurance is however mandatory in most countries. More specifically, the following Aviation Insurance may be isolated and given specific treatments:

Passenger liability insurance — Passenger liability protects passengers on board the accident aircraft that get injured or killed. In many countries this coverage is mandatory mainly for large commercial aircraft. Coverage is often sold on a "one-man-one-seat" basis, with a specified limit for each passenger seat.

Combined Single Limit (CSL) — Alternatively an insurer may decide to issue CSL coverage which combines public liability and passenger liability coverage into a single coverage with a single overall limit per accident especially if passengers suffer injuries, but little damage is done to third party property on the ground.

Ground risk hull insurance in motion (taxiing) — This provides coverage while the aircraft is taxiing, but not while taking-off or landing. Normally coverage ceases at the start of the take-off roll and is in force only once the aircraft has completed its subsequent landing. Due to previous disagreements between airliners and insurers regarding interpretational issues, some insurers have remained silently un-interested and in some cases expunged this type from their business operations.

Ground risk hull insurance (not in motion) — This provides coverage for the insured aircraft against damage when it is on the ground and not in motion. The coverage may include hangar collapse, fire, vandalism, flood, theft, mudslides, animal damage, wind or aircraft striking another (dog-bite-dog scenario) among allied perils. The amount of coverage may be on an agreed value that was set at the time of policy purchase. 

In-flight insurance — In- flight coverage protects an insured aircraft against damage during all phases of flight and ground operation, including while parked or stored. Naturally it is more expensive than not-in-motion coverage, since most aircraft get damaged while in motion. flight coverage protects an insured aircraft against damage during all phases of flight and ground operation, including while parked or stored. Naturally it is more expensive than not-in-motion coverage, since most aircraft get damaged while in motion.

The way forward

Indeed these were some of the things that might have been factored into the exercise that seeks to make combat-readiness a reality. One would recall the swift manner in which the RFFS of the GACL and the key security agencies responded to the June 2, 2012 crash of a cargo aircraft after having over-ran the runway killing some 10 persons on the ground.

 It is worthy to note that life went beyond that as the benefits of aviation insurance might have been largely extended to victims, including the affected aircraft. 

Governments, businesses and individuals must take particular interest in aviation insurance especially starting from adequate cover for our Presidential Jet, (that is, if it has not been done yet). 

Moreover, as pre-requisite for licensing (if not already in force), GCAA, safety conscious as they had always been, must require of airliners to have not just appropriate but also adequate insurance. Yes, ‘combat readiness’ is important but what happens next after effectively handling emergencies in terms of compensation is equally critical and that is adequate insurance.

Until next week, “This is Insurance from the eyes of my mind.”