SA airlines’ safety record lauded


South Africa has a zero fatal accident record in relation to airlines and other scheduled commercial operations, exemplifying the high standard of aviation safety and security in this sector, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said.

“The number of aircraft accidents can be used as a basic barometer that can indicate the presence or otherwise of effective administration of civil aviation safety and security oversight in a country,” the Minister said.

He was briefing the media on the current state of the aviation industry in the country.

Earlier this week a number of airlines were grounded as a precautionary measure following a safety audit conducted by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) on the SAA Technical (SAAT), an entity that maintains aircraft for a number of airlines, including South African Airways (SAA), Mango and Comair/British Airways.

The Minister said the SACAA inspectorate conducts annual renewal inspections and surveillance audits on all operators to determine if operators comply with applicable regulations.

“The SACAA audit of SAAT resulted in five findings relating to non-compliances with the Civil Aviation Regulations. The SACAA sampled two aircraft belonging to Mango and Comair.

“Even though the SACAA accepted the Corrective Action Plan submitted by SAAT, two findings which may affect the fleets of all three airlines remain a cause for concern for the Regulator.

“Against this backdrop SACAA engaged with the affected airlines to solicit an assurance the rest of the fleet does not display the same deficiencies,” the Minister said.

Mbalula said the findings related to unqualified personnel releasing or signing off maintenance work and maintenance checks on flight data recorders and voice recorders not done correctly.

“On discovery of these non-compliances, the steps taken by the SACAA were to direct the aircraft maintenance organisation, South African Airways Technical, and the relevant airlines to conduct verification exercises on their fleets to ensure in terms of the irregularities, aircraft are indeed airworthy. The airlines are expected to provide written evidence of findings,” the Minister said.

Feedback received by the regulator indicated 25 SAA aircraft, 12 Comair and seven Mango aircraft were affected.

“The airlines co-operated with the regulator and submitted evidence which the regulator evaluated.

“The SACAA is in the process of processing the evidence submitted by all the airlines to determine whether it is safe for the airlines to operate the aircraft,” Mbalula said.

SAAT, Mango, Comair and SAA responded by self -grounding the affected aircraft pending assessment by the regulator.

South African skies remain safe

South Africa is a member state of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a specialised United Nations agency of 192 member states. This organisation is responsible for ensuring countries apply comparable civil aviation standards.

As a member, South Africa must comply with the Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) set by ICAO on safety and security.

ICAO conducted its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme Continuous Monitoring Approach audit on South Africa in May 2017.

“The results reveal South Africa’s effective implementation rating increased from 83.83% in 2013 to the current 87.41%. This rating is significantly higher than the world average of 68.53%.

“More importantly, the final ICAO audit report indicates South Africa did not attract a Significant Safety Concern (SSC) during the audit. The impact of a Significant Safety Concern means commercial operations will be affected negatively as international and regional airlines will not operate in a country with an SSC,” the Minister said.

He said South Africa’s results indicated the country’s performance resulted in 100% in two key audit areas – legislation and organisation.

“Our country also recorded 100% in the sub-field of aviation medicine. South Africa is currently number 39 globally and number two in Africa,” Mbalula said.

According to the Minister, South Africa participates in global aviation discussions and represents the country globally on international aviation bodies.

SACAA Director Poppy Khoza, was appointed second vice-president of ICAO Council at the agency’s 40th Assembly in Montreal, Canada, in September.