Regulator grounds South African Express over safety concerns


South Africa’s state owned regional airliner, SA Express, has been grounded after the regulator discovered that the entity had breached maintenance-related safety measures.

The grounding was effected by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) which said it has uncovered serious non-compliance, 17 in total, of which five are categorised as Level 1 breaches. Level 1 category breaches are described as “severe non-compliance or non-conformance that poses a very serious safety or security risk to the public…”

As a result, SACCA suspended SA Express’s Air Operator’s Certificate. It also suspended the airline’s Aircraft Maintenance Organisation approvals and the Certificates of Airworthiness of 9 of the 21 SA Express aircrafts.

SACCA said this effectively means that as of today, Thursday, 24 May 2018, SA Express can no longer continue to operate as an airline. In order to be able to operate, SA Express will have to reapply and be issued with relevant approvals, an air operating certificate, and an approval for the aircraft maintenance organisation, and certificates of airworthiness for the grounded aircraft.

Serious breaches

SACCA added that the decision to revoke the airline’s permits comes after it conducted an audit at the airline and its maintenance organisation. This uncovered severe cases of non-compliance that pose serious safety risks.

SACCA said the airline could not ensure that operational requirements, and most importantly, safety obligations are met at all times. Therefore, the grounding of SA Express operations was inevitable, because in simpler terms the safety management system of the airline was found to be deficient.

SACCA’s Director of Civil Aviation, Poppy Khoza, said “SACAA is fully aware and regrets the inconvenience and disruption this decision would have on passengers.” However, said Khoza, it is equally important to note that decisions to revoke licences are necessary.

She added that “As the custodian of aviation safety and security in the country, the SACAA cannot turn a blind eye to any operation where there is overwhelming evidence that safety measures are compromised, because that automatically poses serious danger for the crew, passengers, and the public at large.”

This article was first published in SATopShops, a consumer affairs online platform.

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