Contractors and a SA Airlink technical support team have removed a Embraer 135 Commuter Jet from a section of the R102 road outside George Airport where the aircraft ended on Monday morning after aquaplaning while landing during heavy rain.
The aircraft, ZS SJX, was on a routine scheduled flight from Cape Town. None of the passengers were injured in the landing that saw the plane overshoot the runway, burst through a perimeter fence and end on an embankment and a section of road.
The aircraft is now within the airport precinct and is being inspected by the company as well as South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) inspectors probing the incident.
It is not yet clear how badly damaged the aircraft is or whether it will ever fly again.
SA Airlink, a privately-owned SA Airways franchise, is meanwhile seeking to limit the reputational damage this incident and a spate of others this year has caused it.
CE and MD Rodger Foster says “until recently we had 17 years of operations with an unblemished safety record. We will do whatever it takes to restore our reputation as a safe airline and rebuild public faith and confidence in the company.
“I would like to apologise to Airlink customers, staff and all South Africans for the anxiety that we have caused. The safety and well-being of our passengers, crews and aircraft is – and always has been – our top priority,” Foster says.
“We support the diligent oversight approach of the SA CAA and we are cooperating fully with its officials in their investigations into the recent accidents and with their intensive audit of the various safety-related aspects of the airline.
“To date, we have not received any feedback from the SACAA that we are not compliant with local and international regulations or procedural best practice. But this process must be allowed to run its course and we will move immediately to address any non-conformance which may be identified in the audit report,” he adds.
“As an additional measure, yesterday I appointed Capt Scully Levin to conduct a wide-ranging and comprehensive review of Airlink’s flight operational processes and procedures. Capt Levin recently retired from SAA where he served as Chief Training Captain. He is acknowledged internationally as an expert in airline safety. I have given Capt Levin a broad mandate and tasked him to identify any gaps so that we can close them,” Foster says.
“Airlink operates a modern fleet and has invested heavily in the best modern training and maintenance systems. It was one of the first African airlines to voluntarily submit to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) process. This internationally (including South Africa) accepted and widely endorsed process involves comprehensive external audits every two years to measure compliance with a set of demanding international benchmarks. Airlink has passed these audits and is IOSA accredited.”
Transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele yesterday threatened to ground the airline.