Flying Across Africa's Skies

When travelling to Africa the most dangerous part of your trip could be getting to your destination. U.S. and international aviation experts estimate that airplanes in Africa are 15 times more likely to crash on average than in North America.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report from June highlights the fact that only four countries in all of Africa have airport and airline safety standards meeting the requirements to receive the most favorable rating by the Federal Aviation Administration; North African countries of Egypt and Morocco, the tiny island West African country of Cape Verde and South Africa make the cut.

There have been multiple fatal air crashes in Africa over the last few years, many due to the poor condition of planes airports, and also a lack of proper training and oversight of the region's airline industries.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the worst safety records, and all of its domestic airlines have been banned by the European Union. Last year a plane flying from the eastern capital city of Goma slid off the runway during take-off, killing 40 people. One-third of the airport's runway was ruined by lava flow from a volcanic eruption seven years ago, and it has yet to be repaired.

In Sudan, at least 30 people were killed when an unscheduled Sudan Airways flight from Port Sudan to Khartoum overran the runway while trying to land in a sandstorm. It was the second fatal crash in two months for the airline. International aviation officials estimate that most of Africa's crashes on small, unregulated planes go unreported, with estimates as high as 70 percent over the last decade.

In an increasingly globalized world, Americans and Europeans can't afford to let African aviation safety remain sub-par, says Tom Kok the founder of AviAssist, a non-profit foundation working to increase safety in the region. Kok is Dutch but started AviAssist after realizing that there were aviation industry groups from nearly every region in the world -- except for Africa, the region with the highest number of accidents.

"Africa is the second-largest growth area in the international airline industry," Kok told ABC News "It's important for foreigners to access countries safely. We collectively own the world's safety record."

As of December of last year there were only eight direct flights between the United States and Africa. In comparison there are 491 direct flights between Europe and Africa, leaving almost all Americans who want to travel to the continent no option but to connect through Europe using codeshare partners.

Several African countries are considered major tourist destinations. Kenya is known as the safari capital of the world and shares one of the new seven wonders, the wildebeest migration, with its neighbor Tanzania. Zambia's Victoria Falls, another one of the new seven wonders, also brings in millions of tourists from the West every year.

Delta had planned to offer a direct flight to Kenya's capital Nairobi beginning last summer, but fears of terrorism and a worry about security at the city's international airport have reportedly postponed the route.

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