The South African civil aviation industry will be under the spotlight in the next two weeks as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) conducts an audit of the country’s competence in relation to aviation safety oversight systems.
ICAO is a UN specialised agency tasked with managing civil aviation matters across the world in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector. ICAO member states including South Africa are expected to conform with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices in order to ensure their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms, which in turn enables the global aviation network to operate safely and reliably.
ICAO regularly performs mandatory audits of member states’ safety oversight systems through its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP). The audits focus on a country’s capability to provide safety oversight by assessing whether it effectively and consistently implements critical elements of a safety oversight system. This allows the country to ensure implementation of ICAO safety-related standards, recommended practices and associated procedures and guidance material.
The ICAO audit team arrived in the country at the weekend and was officially welcomed by Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi.
In his remarks the Minister pointed out that even though South Africa is regarded as a developing country, its aviation infrastructure matches that of most developed countries. “This is not only in reference to aviation technology, but also in the way we conduct business in this sector.”
“I am comforted by statistics indicating matters have been improving, particularly in the last four years. The number of accidents has been declining since the 2013/14 financial year, when 144 accidents were reported. Four years later, the number has dropped by 50%, to 72 aircraft accidents in the 2016/17 financial year.”
He credited the decline in aircraft accidents to various safety promotion interventions at a “State level, coupled with initiatives by SACAA and industry”.
He urged the South African audit task team to co-operate with the auditors and represent the country as best they can. “You represent the hopes of over 55 million South Africans and 33 000 aviation license-holders.”
According to Poppy Khoza, SACAA Director of Civil Aviation, preparations for this audit started as far back as 2013 when South Africa was subjected to a similar audit. “A lot of work has been done behind the scenes and we hope not to attract any adverse findings following this audit.”
Khoza said it was impossible to predict the outcome of the ICAO audit adding her wish was to avoid any pronouncement of an ICAO significant safety concern, which in basic auditing terms is a qualified opinion.