Mon, 12 Apr 2021

  • The CEO of the SA Civil Aviation Authority is concerned about the number of accidents taking place in the country's aviation sector.
  • This would include categories like recreational activities and training.
  • SACAA hosted a national aviation conference to look at the state of the industry.

The accident rate in recreational, training and all sectors of general aviation in South Africa is a cause for concern, according to Poppy Khoza, CEO of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

In fact, the Department of Transport wants to see a reduction of 50% in the number of general aviation accidents in the next five years.

This year alone, no fewer than eight aviation accident reports were filed by SACAA.

"We must immediately ensure that the safety regime that has been applied successfully in the airline sector for over 30 years must be adopted in the general aviation sector," Khoza said at the opening of a national aviation conference hosted virtually by SACAA on Thursday.

"The SACAA's newly introduced General Aviation Safety Strategy, if fully embraced by all concerned, could be the biggest contributor in reducing the carnage we have witnessed in the general aviation sector in the past few weeks."

In the view of Khoza, trust is key to the entire aviation industry's survival.

"Greater emphasis on 'conscious compliance' instead of trying to conceal non-compliances is crucial. This will ensure that no operator or licence. holder is left behind. Most importantly, all of us have a role to play in ensuring that we curb the spread of the [corona]virus. As operators we must ensure a balance between commercial viability and the proper management of mitigating factors against the spread of the [Covid-19] pandemic," she said.

Collaboration and recovery

For her, collaboration is key to successfully address the various challenges faced by the aviation industry and to ensure its continued safe and efficient functioning.

"To this end, I must applaud the leadership of the various aviation organisations and operators for demonstrating commitment to upholding safety and security standards. Without this cooperation, the situation would have been much dire," she said.

"The SACAA acknowledges the massive challenges brought about by the pandemic. Similarly, the regulator is excited about the opportunities presented by the changing micro- and macro-environment."

Areas on which SACAA has put a focus on include a review of all business processes to reduce inefficiencies, bureaucracy, and non-value-adding processes. It also looked at how to improve safety management, stimulate industry growth, have greater voluntary compliance, and encourage regional cooperation participation. The streamlining of all data in the organisation in a centralised manner to support smarter business decisions and effective reporting mechanisms is another focus area.

"The role of air transportation is crucial in modern society, as air transport is interlinked, interdependent, and heavily reliant on the movement of people and goods from one corner of the world to another. The sudden social and economic disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic serves as the most powerful and vivid reminder of the essential role of aviation," she said.

"SACAA will continue to play a significant role in ensuring that all operators continue to comply with the approved measures and standard operating procedures for the purpose of containing the spread of Covid-19. The successful aviation regulatory model is a high priority towards securing the delivery of safety and security standards and recommended practices as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)."

Accidents this year alone

SACAA's website, for example, indicates that so far this year, accidents reported included the pilot of a light aircraft having to make an emergency landing on a gravel road after experiencing engine power loss; a small aircraft engaged in crop-spraying crashing; the engine of a small aircraft failing, forcing the pilot to land on a ploughed field; a helicopter destroyed when the pilot, while waiting on the ground for take-off clearance, momentarily removed his hand off the collective lever to lower the volume of the radio when the collective suddenly shot up, causing the pilot to lose control of the helicopter; a crash landing on a maize field after engine power loss; the brakes of a small plane not working effectively resulted in the aircraft overrunning the runway after landing; and the pilot of a small aircraft having a fatal accident after experiencing a medical emergency.

According to Peter Mashaba, executive: accidents and incidents investigation at SACAA, some of the reasons for accidents include improper maintenance servicing and runway incidents. He says SACAA is most concerned about the increased numbers of fatal accidents in the agricultural, training and general aviation sectors.

SACAA data indicates, in general, most accidents occur in Gauteng, followed by Mpumalanga, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. Most accidents happen during landing.

According to Neil De Lange senior manager: general aviation at SACAA said during his presentation that the threat posed to general aviation by drones, must be reduced. A focus group is looking into this issue.

SACAA has a 5-year plan to increase general aviation safety. It is looking into what underlying reasons are for incidents.

"SACAA has rigorous and comprehensive oversight in place. SACAA will leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety of all operators in the South African context, whether state-owned or private," he said.

Source: News24

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