SA Airlink fit to fly


Commissioner for Civil Aviation Colin Jordaan says regional airline SA Airlink is “fit to fly.”

He made the pronouncement after a series of audits of the airline this past week following a series of accidents and incidents involving the SAA franchise’s aircraft in recent months.

In the latest incident a 37-seat Embraer 135 jet overshot a runway in wet conditions in George last week Monday. Last month, an Airlink aircraft skidded off a runway in Port Elizabeth after an aborted take-off, while in September a Jetstream 41 crashed shortly after takeoff from Durban International Airport.

Minister of Transport Sibusiso Ndebele last Tuesday instructed the South African Civil Aviation (CAA) to provide a report to his office on the operational and maintenance health of the airline. The CAA as by then already probing the incidents as well as the airline’s maintenance and flight operations programmes.

Jordaan says the CAA last week completed a “forensic audit” of the airline’s operations and despite some observations found nothing wrong.

“There were no findings in the flight operations area. We had a couple of observation and we made recommendations,” Jordaan told 702 talkradio this morning.

“We made recommendations that their crew resource management training should be improved [as well as] their command upgrade training… [but] there is nothing that is non-compliant to our regulations which is really what we look at,” Jordaan added. “They’re fit to fly.”

However 12 findings were made about maintenance at the airline,which Jordaan said while not srios on their own were serious taken as a whole.

“Each of them were not serious, in other words if we had done an audit and found one of this findings, we wouldn’t have been concerned. With the 12 we submitted to Airlink management together we believe they were serious and therefore we gave them a very short period of time, literally two days in which not to come up with a full corrective plan but to convince us through a safety assessment and through addressing what findings they could in that sort period of time [that they were safe to fly].

“…We required them to come back to us yesterday morning at 9am and present the case in full to our audit team and myself. We received the presentation which took about two-and-a-half hours, so it was in depth and then we spent quite some time deliberating and assessing the work they had done and based on that we [heard] we believe unanimously that Airlink should be allowed to continue operating, that they will finish off the audit process with us and come up with a comprehensive maintenance action plan,” Jordaan said.

The airline was given until next Monday to present a comprehensive corrective action plan “as called for by the Civil Aviation Regulations” to address the CAA’s findings.

SA Airlink CEO Rodger Foster said he was relieved at the outcome, describing the last week as a challenging time for the airline. “We have been through a very intense process and at the end of the day we have learned a lot from the process. Airlink is a business that is committed to operational safety,” said Forster.

Minister of Transport Sibusiso Ndebele commended the CAA for its swift action and resolution of the Airlink matter. “It is our responsibility to ensure that we do not compromise safety in all modes of transport including road, sea and air. We remain uncompromising in safeguarding the aviation and maritime sectors in our country which have kept world class standards of safety.

“The commercial aviation sector in South Africa remains among the safest in the world and serves as the ideal which taxis, busses and private car users and pedestrians must follow, one which places infinite value on lives and operates on a zero tolerance basis to anything that risks life and limb. We cannot drop these standards at any cost,” added Ndebele.