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Last December, an Airbus A310 freighter ploughed into houses after overshooting the runway at Mbuji-Mayi Airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Eight people lost their lives. The disaster came barely four months after loose tarmac slabs on the same runway damaged the stabiliser of a departing Boeing 737-300 passenger jet.
Unfortunately for regular travellers in Africa’s second largest country, incidents such as these are hardly uncommon. The Aviation Safety Network has recorded 24 aircraft crashes in DRC since the turn of the decade, resulting in 167 fatalities. The grim track-record has earned the country a spot in Annex A of the European Union’s aviation blacklist, meaning that all locally-registered airlines are banned from entering EU airspace.
It is precisely because of this worrying background that Air France Consulting agreed to help the Congolese government set up a new flag-carrier – one that would abide by European standards and start mending the country’s tainted reputation for air safety...