The South African Air Force (SAAF) will take some serious knocks due to the end of its maintenance contract with the Aero Manpower Group (AMG), but the Deputy Chief of the Air Force is confident that the SAAF will retain maintenance capability.
Major General Jerry Malinga, Deputy Chief of the SAAF, told journalists at the Air Force Day Parade this morning that the end of the AMG contract “doesn’t mean we don’t have anything” regarding maintenance capability. “We need to build up to filling those gaps. I can’t say how long it will take.”
He noted that the AMG contract does not conform to government framework and that was why the contract will come to an end on March 31. “Obviously we are going to take some serious knocks.”
Jack Loggenberg, spokesperson for trade union Solidarity, said that the SAAF’s termination of its contract for aircraft maintenance with Denel Aviation/AMG and the resultant loss of 523 aircraft specialists is cause for concern since various cases of air force aircraft experiencing difficulties have occurred in the past few months.
In the last three months, a Cessna Caravan and a C-47TP have suffered hard landings while a C-47TP crash in December killed all 11 on board. Last month a CASA 212 came down hard, resulting in damage to the airframe that resulted in the aircraft being written off.
“Many of the air force’s aircraft are already old and must be serviced frequently. At the moment there are still aircraft specialists who can do this. However, the morale of these specialists is affected very negatively by the continuing uncertainty and lack of transparency regarding matters relating to the termination of the maintenance contract,” Loggenberg said.
The trade union had earlier called on the SAAF to put their cards on the table about the termination of its contact with Denel Aviation/AMG. “It is, without question, time for the air force to break its silence about the contract and to give its assurance that its aircraft will be maintained properly when its contract with Denel Aviation/AMG comes to an end.”
Solidarity earlier accused the SAAF of hiding behind a report by the Auditor-General and concealing the true reason for the termination of the contract. “The SAAF deceived Denel Aviation/AMG and trade unions by first pretending to consider possible options for renewing the contact and now by hiding behind the Auditor-General’s report,” Solidarity said.
“The Auditor-General probably rather suggested that the contract be revised to comply with the relevant legislation and regulations. Therefore, the SAAF quite probably had the opportunity to revise the contract, but are now using the Auditor-General’s report as a smokescreen,” Loggenberg said with reference to the termination of the contract.
Solidarity represents 227 of the 523 aircraft specialists. These employees are stationed across the country at different squadrons, including Hoedspruit, Lephalale (Ellisras), Louis Trichardt, Bredasdorp, Ysterplaat and Langebaan. Nearly 40% of the aircraft specialists are stationed in Pretoria.