South Africa has a zero fatal accident record in relation to airlines and other scheduled commercial operations, exemplifying the high standard of aviation safety and security in this sector, says South African Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
“The number of aircraft accidents can be used as one of the basic barometers that can indicate the presence or otherwise of the effective administration of civil aviation safety and security oversight in a country,” said the Minister on Thursday.
He was briefing the media on the current state of the aviation industry in the country.
What’s the latest on grounded SAA aircrafts?
Earlier this week a number of airlines were grounded as a precautionary measure following a safety audit conducted by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) on the South African Airways Technical (SAAT), an entity that maintains aircrafts on behalf of a number of airlines, which include South African Airways (SAA), Mango and Comair/British Airways.
The Minister said the SACAA inspectorate conducts annual renewal inspections and surveillance audits on all operators to determine if operators comply with applicable regulations.
“The SACAA audit of SAAT resulted in five findings relating to non-compliances with the Civil Aviation Regulations. The SACAA sampled two aircraft belonging to Mango airlines and Comair.
“Even though the SACAA accepted the Corrective Action Plan submitted by SAAT, two findings which may affect the entire fleet of the three airlines remained a cause for concern for the Regulator.
“It is against this backdrop that the SACAA engaged with the affected airlines to solicit an assurance that the rest of the fleet does not display the same deficiencies,” the Minister said.
Mbalula said the two findings related to unqualified personnel releasing or signing off maintenance work and secondly, maintenance checks on flight data recorders and voice recorders that had not been done correctly.
“Upon discovery of these non-compliances, the steps taken by the SACAA were to direct the aircraft maintenance organisation, South African Airways Technical, and the relevant airlines, namely Mango, Comair and South African Airways, to conduct verification exercises on their fleet to ensure that in terms of these irregularities, their aircraft are indeed airworthy. The airlines were expected to provide written evidence of their findings,” the Minister said.
The feedback received by the regulator indicated that 25 SAA aircraft, 12 Comair aircraft and seven Mango aircraft were affected.
“The airlines cooperated with the regulator and submitted evidence which the regulator spent the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday evaluating this evidence.
”The SACAA is in the process of processing the evidence submitted by all the airlines to determine whether it is safe for the airlines to operate the aircraft,” Mbalula said.
South African Airways Technical, Mango, Comair and South African Airways responded by self -grounding the affected aircraft pending the assessment by the regulator.
Why SA airlines are one of the safest in the world
South Africa is one of the member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialised United Nations agency comprising 192 member states. This organisation is responsible for ensuring that countries apply comparable civil aviation standards.
As a member, South Africa must comply with the Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) set by ICAO on safety and security.
ICAO conducted its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme Continuous Monitoring Approach audit on South Africa in May 2017.
“The results reveal that South Africa’s effective implementation rating had increased from 83.83% in 2013 to the current 87.41%. This rating is significantly higher than the world average of 68.53%.
“Most importantly, the final ICAO audit report indicates that South Africa did not attract a Significant Safety Concern (SSC) during the audit. The impact of a Significant Safety Concern on a country means that commercial operations will be affected negatively as international and regional airlines will not operate in a country with an SSC,” the Minister said.
He said South Africa’s results indicated that the country’s sterling performance resulted in 100% performance in two key audit areas – legislation and organisation.
“Our country also recorded 100% in the sub-field of aviation medicine. South Africa is currently number 39 globally and number two in Africa,” Mbalula said.
According to the Minister, South Africa participates in global aviation discussions and represents the country globally on a number of international aviation bodies.
SACAA Director Poppy Khoza, was recently appointed as the second vice-president of ICAO Council at the agency’s 40th Assembly in Montreal, Canada, in September 2019.