Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) is keeping a weather eye on the forensic investigation into the runway excursion by an SA Air Force (SAAF) C-130BZ Hercules and will also follow the board of inquiry into the incident.
PCDMV chairman Cyril Xaba said the “probe” into the accident, which did not claim any lives, was good and as an initial follow the committee would invite the Department of Defence (DoD) to brief it.
This will happen during Parliament’s next term, which commences after the State of the Nation (SONA) address on 13 February.
“We want to hear from the DoD on details pertaining to the crash and measures to ensure similar incidents do not occur in future,” he said, adding the loss of any strategic asset, such as a military airlifter, was unaffordable to South Africa given the current fiscal challenges the country faces.
A committee member said there would be ongoing questions at both committee and National Assembly level to ensure the forensic investigation and subsequent board of inquiry remained in the public eye.
“It’s important for South Africans to know what happened and why it happened,” he said.
In similar vein African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier said the country at large should know the aircraft that crashed in Goma was not the last SAAF C-130BZ.
“There are five other operational C-130BZs in service (serials 401, 402, 405, 406, 409). One will resume flying DR Congo missions soon”.
He maintains the “last aircraft” claim is based “on confusion between the terms ‘serviceable’ and ‘operational’. In SAAF terms, an aircraft is only serviceable when it is fully mission capable and available for flying on any given day”.
“That means aircraft which are otherwise airworthy, but may have minor outstanding issues requiring only a part swap-out, are considered unserviceable.
“As an example, if a C-130BZ has a defect in one of its missile warning sensors, that renders it unserviceable for flights to the Democratic Republic of the Congo even though the aircraft is perfectly serviceable in every other sense.
“Some aircraft presently unserviceable are in this condition and waiting for parts, as each time a replacement part is ordered it has to go via the standard government tender process. This can take weeks if not months if the part needs to be manufactured. If the SAAF was given more funding it would be able to maintain a large stock of these spare parts on hand, reducing the amount of time any aircraft spends waiting,” he said.