THE ROLE OF LAW IN PROMOTING GENERAL SAFETY ON FLIGHT UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
Aviation is one of the greatest and important unique inventions of man in the area of transportation. Since 17 December 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina when a bicycle repairer Orville Wright propelled himself through the air a distance of 120ft the first powered flight in a heavier-than-air aircraft known to human, air transportation has been beneficial to man. Air transportation globally constitutes significant proportion of the nations socio-economic system. It facilitates movement of people, goods and services thereby assists in generating contact and revenue on which economic, social and political progress of nations radiate. So air transport has done more than provide a carrier service, it has affected economic way of life, made changes in social and cultural viewpoints and had a hand in shaping the course of political history. Air transport industry contributes directly to the economy through its employment and revenue generation and indirectly by its purchase of goods and services from suppliers of the industry. There is urgent need for governments to develop the industry to meet international standard and requirement. Development of this industry will enhance economic development of countries especially developing ones. Nevertheless, this beautiful achievement of man is bedeviled by hazards. Law has to intervene to minimize the hazards by regulating air traffic operations, imposing duties and obligations on the various entities involved in air navigation. Besides, aviation has always been exploited by perpetrators of unlawful acts, whose trademark is terrorism. Aviation is constantly being targeted all over the world by terrorist groups and individuals who see it as the most effective avenue to propagate political views, plights and motives. It has always been very effective in gaining media attention and publicity for terrorism. Thus security and safety have been major aspect of concern, which cannot be ignored by the international community. Crime on board aircraft border on terrorism, hijack or air piracy, assassination, bombing and so on which make flight unsafe. Violent crimes or unlawful acts in aviation have always posed great threat and challenge to international civil aviation that international community had to come up with some measures to tackle it. 7 Moreover, series of accidents kept reminding aviators of the need to put in place safety precautions for the conduct of flights. Thus, the leading aviation nations began to standardize codes to guide aircraft production and operation. Various countries formulated their own rules. The first generation aeronauts were particularly safety conscious. This informed the various materials used in constructing the balloons and their different structures all in attempt to develop what could withstand adverse weather conditions, thereby promoting safety. Aircraft accident is an unlikely and preventable occurrence that leads to loss of financial, material and human resources, for example in the September 2001 U.S. plane hijack 2,000 lives of people of different nationalities were terminated in a single day. In Nigeria the three main air disasters in 2005 claimed 226 lives among them was the Postmaster General of the Federation Alhaji Abubakar Argungu. The helicopter crash in Mexico in September 2005 claimed lives. In Indonesia the plane crash in September 2005 cleared 140 souls. The Iranians military transport plane crash in Tehran in December 2005 killed 110 people. In America the plane crash in December 2005 in Bahamas killed 20 people. These were mainly the manpower and workforce of the nations besides the aircraft which cost a lot to acquire were destroyed. However, the need to adhere to varied forms of codes; rules and regulations developed by different states soon became an impediment to the growth and orderly operation of international air transport. There was an apparent and urgent need for global standardization. The successful attempt at evolving a comprehensive international regulation of civil aviation dates back to 1944, when an international conference in Chicago, U.S.A. adopted certain decisions aimed at fostering the development of international air transport in an orderly and safe manner. The research effort will focus on the entities involved in air travel and their respective duties as apportioned by law in ensuring flight safety (flight safety as a collective responsibility). It will also discuss the adverse effect of air disaster both on individuals and the economy as well as stress the importance of flight safety in the enhancement of economic development. Besides, the thesis intends to contribute to the topical discourse on flight safety, which has generated much discussion in recent times, by looking at flight safety from legal perspectives.