Civil Aviation Authority eroding: DA

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The aircraft accident which left one passenger dead in KwaXimba village, near Cato Ridge in KwaZulu Natal on 14th February is one of the many accidents which continue to cast doubt on the standards of our civil aviation industry, says opposition Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament Stuart Farrow.  
“The seriousness of the situation is underscored by a reply to a Parliamentary question which shows that the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) is fast becoming unable to effectively monitor safety standards,” Farrow adds.    
SACAA is mandated to regulate and oversee the civil aviation industry to ensure safety standards. But Farrow says the agency “is in a state of disarray to the extent that it seems unable to carry out its own mandate.”
Transport minister Jeff Radebe on Wednesday confirmed in a written answer to that SACAA has not completed reports on any of the 190 accidents which occurred during 2008.
“From these, a total of 94 fatalities resulted from 33 accidents. These accident and fatality statistics include sporting activities, such as skydiving, paragliding and the like,” Radebe said.
The delay comes despite President Kgalema Motlanthe late last year ordering the organisation to report on the cause of a spate of accidents that killed 30 people in September and 26 in October and recommending some cures.
The September figure, however, includes 17 people killed in an accident occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo on an United Nations flight with a South African registered aircraft.
Radebe ascribes the delay to the usual workings of bureaucracy. “Accident reports are produced in terms of a defined procedure, i.e. an onsite investigation (if necessary); documentation of information; production of a report; review of the report by an Advisory Safety Panel (ASP); submission to the Commissioner for Civil Aviation (CCA); and subsequent release to interested      parties and the public”.
He says two fatal accident reports were reviewed during the January 2009 Safety Advisory Panel meeting and will be submitted to the CCA by end February 2009. 
“A further four and five reports, respectively, will be submitted to the ASP during the March and April meetings. The remainder of the fatal and other accident reports is scheduled to be completed and submitted to the CCA by end 2009.
Radebe adds that a preliminary “review of the 2008 accidents identify human factors as the primary cause of the accidents and these can be categorised as mainly poor decision making, error of judgment and lack of skill and experience. Mechanical defects and maintenance are involved as a minority causal factor.”
 
Fatalities
 
 
 
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Total
2004
4
0
1
4
4
4
5
1
6
0
2
2
33
2005
6
0
0
3
3
0
3
1
4
8
0
2
30
2006
4
3
2
20
0
4
3
0
1
6
2
2
47
2007
4
1
4
4
2
1
1
1
7
1
9
3
38
2008
7
3
6
7
1
2
1
6
30
26
4
1
94
2009
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
Fatal Accidents
 
 
 
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Total
2004
3
0
1
2
3
3
2
1
1
0
1
2
19
2005
2
0
0
2
2
0
3
1
4
3
0
1
18
2006
3
2
3
5
1
4
2
0
2
3
2
2
29
2007
4
2
3
2
2
1
1
1
4
1
4
2
27
2008
3
1
3
4
1
1
1
2
5
7
4
1
33
2009
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
A total of 243 people have died in civil aviation accidents since 2004.  
Farrow says these “shocking statistics should hardly come as a surprise when, according to SACAA`s own annual report for 2007/8, it has failed to reach its own audit targets for critical areas.
“For instance, for its aircraft safety programme, which involves the certification of aircraft worthiness, SACCA set itself a target of 659, and it only managed to reach 582, leaving a 77 variance. Again for its air safety operations programme, which deals with flight operations and cabin safety, SACCA`s target was 1501 audits, but it only managed 1189, leaving a backlog of 312.
Radebe concedes that in addition to the approximately 200 reports which are still not completed for the 2008 year, “there is a serious challenge” regarding backlogs dating to the year 2000 to overcome.
He says the SACAA Accident and Incident Investigation Division (AIID) “is committed and is actively pursuing all efforts to eliminate this backlog as soon as practical possible.”
Steps to that effect include the employment of an additional five investigators last year. As a result “good progress is being made in the process of completing the outstanding reports”.
Radebe adds that delays with some reports are for reasons beyond the SACAA`s control. “A fatality in an aircraft accident is classified as an unnatural death which requires an autopsy to be conducted by a pathologist of the Department of Health. 
“The results of the autopsy are formally made available to the investigator through the South African Police Services office dealing with the unnatural death investigation. Lack of a speedy process in the provision of the autopsy is the major cause of the delay of the completion of the final report,” Radebe says.