The SACAA has reassessed the George runway restrictions during wet conditions based on analysis of further tests conducted recently on the George Airport main runway.
“A NOTAM outlining these requirements, effective from 14:00 February 23 2010, has been issued. The NOTAM is effective until further notice,” the regulator says in a statement.
As a result of this reassessment it has been decided that commercial operators will be allowed to use the runway in wet conditions, provided that the aircraft type can safely take off and land with a 30% reserve distance available for the existing runway length. This will enable any aircraft equipped with fully functional thrust reverse and anti-skid braking systems to safely stop on the runway with minimum risk in the event that any adverse friction condition is encountered.
Although the latest friction tests indicate the runway surface to be within limits, questions raised during the Airlink accident investigation have not yet been fully answered, hence the requirement for an additional safety margin.
SACAA expressed itself perplexed by the outcome of the tests that have followed a South African Airlink aircraft overshooting the runway at the airport on December 7. “A friction test was again performed on Monday, February 15 and the results indicated that the runway friction is within the prescribed limits,” SACAA said in a statement released Monday.
“This presents a challenge when viewed against the fact that the data from the aircraft flight data recorder indicates that all systems appear to have functioned normally (inclusive of the brakes and the anti-lock braking system) and the approach and landing profiles and speeds were within normal limits. It is clear that something had to cause the overshooting of the runway at the time and the cause has to be identified in order to prevent a recurrence of the same accident.”
The Airlink Embraer 135 Commuter Jet (ZS-SJW) with 30 passengers and three crew members aquaplaned on the runway while landing in bad weather at George Airport in the south-eastern Western Cape just after 11am local time. The aircraft came to rest 200 metres past the runway just beyond the perimeter fence of the airport, its nose across the R102 road that skirts the airport.
The SACAA has noted, with concern, media reports that suggest that this measure (restrictions on George Airport runways) will have an adverse impact on the 2010 FIFA World Cup arrangements and activities. “The SACAA wishes to categorically state that such reports are not true and border on sensationalism. The truth of the matter is that the current restrictions are of a temporary measure aimed at minimising the possibility of a recurrence of the December Airlink accident. The process of assessing the runway surface is at an advanced stage and the situation will be reassessed as and when further results become available,” the statement adds.
“Moreover, the SACAA and other aviation stakeholders have been working intensely behind the scenes to ensure that all aspects relating to aviation safety and security remain world-class; and thus ensure that South Africa hosts a successful 2010 FIFA World Cup.”
“It is acknowledged that actions taken by the SACAA in George may have inconvenienced passengers, but the safety of air travellers is of paramount importance and should not be compromised in anyway.”