Test Flying Academy of SA disappointed by US sanctions

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The Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA) has said it is disappointed that the United States has, without consultation, put it on a sanctions list for “activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States” as the TFASA trains Chinese fighter pilots.

TFASA this week said it had taken note of the United States Department of Commerce inclusion of it to a list of entities subject to export administration regulations. “As a South African company, registered with the South African National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), and not reliant on US exports, this change does not affect TFASA’s day to day operations,” it said. “Nevertheless, TFASA is disappointed that the United States Department of Commerce has taken this step without consultation.”

TFASA said it has operated with the full knowledge of NATO defence and security agencies for over a decade. “Recent communications between the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Air Force Office of Special Investigation and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots indicate that TFASA has broken no laws. In addition, following our UK lawyers’ correspondence with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), the MoD confirmed that ‘they do not believe that TFASA is engaged in activities which breach current UK law.’”

TFASA said it will be contacting the United States Department of Commerce to clarify its position.

The Academy added that it has strict protocols and a Code of Conduct in place that are designed to prevent any TFASA employee sharing any information or training that is, or might be considered to be, legally or operationally sensitive, or security classified.

“All of TFASA’s training materials are either open source documents, or provided directly by TFASA’s clients. TFASA is, and always has been, in full compliance with the laws of South Africa, and every other jurisdiction in which it operates. TFASA highlights that the training it provides is also available from other civilian contractors including organisations based in the United States of America, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and European jurisdictions,” the Academy concluded.

The US said TFASA’s relationship with China was a risk to American interests. In October, the UK issued a threat alert mentioning TFASA.

TFASA is one of a number of aviation companies around the world being added to the US sanctions list for “providing training to Chinese military pilots using Western and NATO sources”, the US commerce department said.

TFASA previously said it never recruited pilots directly from military service, and only used those already working as civilian contractors.